Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ma$$achu$etts Drapered in DARPA

Just trying to get a leg up on tomorrow is all:

"Amid federal cuts, Draper Laboratory looks to biopharma industry for new contracts" by Andrew Joseph, January 20, 2016

Draper Laboratory has honed weapons systems for the Defense Department, helped bring NASA astronauts back to Earth, and pursued cutting-edge brain projects for the National Institutes of Health.

But the nonprofit research institute based in Cambridge, Mass., is increasingly looking to the private sector for its future business. As the federal government has cut back on research and development spending, Draper and other labs-for-hire are pursuing industry customers in hot fields like life sciences, aerospace, and energy.

For Draper, it’s not a full makeover by any means. Commercial contracts have accounted for less than 5 percent of its annual revenue of more than $500 million in recent years, and Draper executives want that to grow to 20 percent in the next three years.

“We are going to continue to be a federal contractor … but I think what we want to tell people is we’re not just a federal contractor,” said Draper CEO and president Kaigham J. Gabriel.

That commercial involvement may also be an asset to their governmental clients, Gabriel said. And he should know — Gabriel joined Draper in 2014 after roles as a Google executive and senior official at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the Pentagon.

Around the country, research institutes that receive government funding are hunting for more private sector contracts as federal dollars have been slashed in recent years, said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank. That echoes what is happening in academic labs as well.

“They see the handwriting on the wall, unless there’s a change, which one could hope for,” Atkinson said.

Draper is especially well-positioned for life sciences work, situated among the biotech and pharma action in the Kendall Square neighborhood, and executives said their partnership ambitions span from small startups to huge conglomerates. The lab’s repositioning also dovetails with the biopharmaceutical industry relying less on in-house research and more on what are known as contract research or manufacturing organizations, part of the burgeoning field of immunotherapy, a fast-moving industry and “opportunity,” said Tara Clark, who started last week as Draper’s vice president of commercial business after more than two decades in biotech and medical devices.

Some of what Draper is offering builds on prior projects funded by the federal government. Draper scientists have collaborated with researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital on a DARPA-funded effort to treat anxiety using deep brain stimulation. Draper engineered the system’s sensors and electrodes to detect anxiety in one part of the brain and then calm neurons in another region. 

Stimulate you how?

A company is now interested in how that technology could be applied for other conditions, though Gabriel would not say more about the customer and its plans....

Better pull the covers over your head.


Time to wake up, America.