Last week, experts at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, NY, described how partnerships between academic and industrial groups can benefit bioprocessors. Here, they explain how to develop those relationships.

When asked how such a partnership gets started, Susan Sharfstein, PhD, professor of nanobioscience, says, “It’s usually that you meet somebody—you go to a conference and you give a talk or they give a talk—and they come up to you and say, ‘Hey, that’s an interesting idea.’” That sets the stage for partnership opportunities. She adds that “SUNY Poly as an entity is really interested in collaborations with industry.”

To expand on SUNY Poly’s perspective on developing such partnerships, director of university communications Steve Ference says, “It’s a complex, multifaceted approach.” He points out that the collaborations range from small companies located around the nation to nearby giants like Applied Materials and IBM.

“By working with a theme, you create a larger ecosystem where you can have this sort of cross-pollination of ideas, and it leads to some exciting potential partnerships,”  he continues, adding that he sees particular potential where areas of expertise could intersect in bioprocessing applications.

Broad interaction is critical

To reach that potential, Janet Paluh, PhD, associate professor of nanobioscience, agrees that scientists must interact. “It is about getting out there and disseminating the research,” she says. She mentions that such interactions triggered Richmond, CA-based Nanoshift to approach SUNY Poly about collaborating on an opioid biosensor. Plus, Buffalo, NY-based Cytocybernetics approached SUNY Poly about “technologies with stem cells that reflect on ethnic diversity” to benefit cardiac health in a diverse population.

Those interactions also expand the opportunities for students at SUNY Poly.

“Most of our students, both graduate and undergraduate, I would say, end up in industry,” says Nathaniel Cady, PhD, Empire Innovation Professor of Nanobioscience and executive director of the SUNY Applied Materials Research Institute. “Our students are interacting with companies already and there’s a good pipeline for finding internships and then eventually jobs—sometimes in pharma.”

In fact, the partnerships with industry impact the philosophy of the students. “We’ve had a number of students start companies,” according to Sharfstein. “So, there is a real entrepreneurial environment here.”

Notably, SUNY Poly offers a unique framework to benefit these partnerships, including an MD-PhD. program in nanomedicine to bridge academic-industrial-clinical partnerships.

In pushing toward the sophisticated technology that will form the foundation of Bioprocessing 4.0, academic-industry partnerships will be necessary to create the best technologies, as well as the best-trained personnel.