Cook blasts slow commercialization process-WEB ONLY

Scott Olson
solson@IBJ.com

Taking science from the laboratory to the commercial market takes too much time and is littered with potential pitfalls along the way.

That’s the message Bill Cook, one of the state’s most successful businessmen, delivered this morning at the fourth and final event of the 2008-09 Indiana Life Science Collaboration Conference Series at IUPUI.

Cook founded Bloomington-based Cook Group Inc. in 1963. The supplier of medical devices since has grown into a $1 billion company. But, in the meantime, the patent process has become increasingly difficult, he said.

“It is almost an impossible task we have been given to prove the validity of a design,” he said.

It took 24 years for one of Cook’s stents to receive approval while an invitro-fertilization product took nearly as long.

“I’m sure ‘Octomom’ is very happy with our test tubes,” Cook said in reference to the California mother who recently gave birth to eight babies. “But folks, it took 19 years to get approval.”

Cook said he cannot blame the Food and Drug Administration for being overly cautious, but he is convinced the process can be conducted more efficiently.

He railed against conflict-of-interest rules set by the Association of American Medical Colleges that prevent physicians from receiving compensation for a discovery if they’re actively teaching or participating in clinical trials.

“It’s the most idiotic, dumb thing I’ve seen in my life,” Cook said. “Who cares if a man makes a little more money?”

To bolster his argument, Cook cited Cook Pharmica LLC, which he founded in 2004 at Purdue University as a collaborative effort to bring products to market. “We hope [researchers] will seriously conflict themselves in this project,” he said.

Cook also cautioned against disclosing patentable information too soon, citing one instance that cost him $250,000. Insufficient product funding and unrealistic royalty expectations can cause problems, as well, he said.

Today’s conference focused on how collaborations between businesses and universities translate into raising capital, product development and ultimately commercialization.

Following Cook’s presentation, a panel discussed life sciences opportunities that could be created by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. The medical research initiative between Indiana and Purdue universities is underwritten in part by a $25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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