Staff at UK Innovate – the innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic enterprise for UK Research – recently attended an international conference to connect with industry partners, showcase areas of expertise, and promote exciting technology developing at the University.

At the 2023 International BIO Conference, UK Innovate’s College of Medicine industry partnership manager, Chelsea Ex-Lubeskie, and life sciences senior commercialization manager, Holly Symonds Clark, completed more than 20 one-on-one meetings with potential industry partners. They also met with groups that offer funding opportunities, such as Venture Builders and Indiana Biosciences Research Institute.

“There is interest in the University of Kentucky,” Ex-Lubeskie said. “In addition to external outreach for partnering meetings, we had a healthy number of inbound meeting requests to learn more about research areas of expertise and specific technology assets in development.”

Industry partnerships are vital for researchers and can catalyze groundbreaking scientific discoveries, leading to more impactful advancements in health care.

UK Innovation Connect, the industry partnership team for UK Innovate was established in 2022 to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between UK and corporate partners. The team, led by Executive Director Landon Borders, hopes to simplify and expedite the process for industry partners to collaborate with UK Research in the future.

“Our goals are to support faculty members with existing and desired partnerships, create and disseminate new processes and tools to make industry engagement easier, and elevate the life science research and clinical expertise within and beyond the Commonwealth,” Ex-Lubeskie said. 

Jill Kolesar, PharmD, MS, has seen the benefit of UK Innovate’s connections firsthand. She is the founder of VesiCure Technologies, a UK-based startup, which was formed as a path to develop engineered extracellular vesicles (EEVs) as a broad platform technology for drug delivery and in situ cell phenotype modulation. While EEVs mimic the properties of extracellular vesicles (EVs), they are distinct in that they are manufactured directly from the cellular membrane and do not rely on endogenous cellular machinery for production. Dr. Kolesar’s technology was discussed with potential industry partners at the International BIO Conference, and UK Innovate has been working with Dr. Kolesar to facilitate further conversations.

“The Office of Technology Commercialization and UK Innovate team has been instrumental in helping VesiCure craft the developmental strategy for our first product, macrophage-engineered vesicles (MEVs), as a maintenance therapy for ovarian cancer,” Dr. Kolesar said.

Through meetings with industry and other potential partners at the International BIO Conference, Ex-Lubeskie and Clark were able to gather industry non-confidential decks highlighting their areas of interest in research, which will be used in UK Innovate’s upcoming online “Industry Interest Library.” This library will be accessible and available to the UK community and serve as a resource for UK researchers to find industry service providers, potential industry collaborators, and possibly licensees for developing innovations and intellectual property.  

UK joined other Kentucky organizations in a coalition headed by Login Gatti, director of the Health Enterprises Network in Louisville. Housed within the Kentucky-wide booth were representatives from UK, Commerce Lexington, Kentucky Commercialization Ventures, University of Louisville, UPS, and others. 

In addition to the International BIO Conference, UK Innovate previously attended the BIO on the Bayou conference in November 2022. This conference included presentations by university researchers, venture capital firms, industry, and the National Institutes of Health. Three UK researchers gave pitch presentations.

UK Innovate expects to attend this meeting in October, as well as the international Association of University Technology Managers meeting, where industry partners will be present to engage specifically with universities.