Translational tech work bridges academia and markets

Northwestern University scientist Richard Silverman's work led to the blockbuster Lyrica, which translated into more than $700 million in royalties from Pfizer. And his story--told by the Chicago Tribune--illustrates the crucial role that a technology transfer office can play in moving an experimental therapy into the hands of a biopharma company with deep pockets.

Silverman's inspiration was to focus on the way that enzymes elevated levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter involved in key brain functions. Northwestern's technology transfer office was able to turn it into a blockbuster product for the university after the therapy demonstrated an ability to ease nerve-generated pain during human trials.

The money hasn't changed Silverman's life, but it has emphasized the curious path of drug discovery that winds from the lab to the market. When Lyrica was approved, Silverman asked to go to Pfizer's big celebration; but the man that made the key scientific breakthrough couldn't even wrangle an invitation. The big drug company had moved on from its scientific origin. Success hadn't spoiled the scientist, though. He's putting a chunk of his earnings up for a new, $95 million chemistry building that will bear his name.

"It'll be really nice to have a building with my name on it," Silverman said. "I'll be long gone and the building will still be standing."

- read the article in the Chicago Tribune

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