by Vicki Hildner | University Communications
The low-slung brick building at the far east end of the Anschutz Medical Campus doesn’t offer any hint about the work going on within: a unique private-public collaboration intent on bringing revenue measured in the millions—even billions—back to the university.
The building houses the iC42 laboratory, with three mass spectrometers churning out results that lab Co-Director Jeffrey Galinkin, MD, calls “a game-changer in the field.”
But there would not have even been a game had it not been for:
- drug-abusing bicyclists on the world’s most prestigious racing circuit,
- a chance conversation between two Colorado neighbors and
- a super-angel investor who did research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1980s.
“We could prove an athlete was clean . . .”
Galinkin divides his time between his duties at the lab, Children’s Hospital Colorado where he is an anesthesiologist, and the CU School of Medicine, where he is a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics. As the project developed, he began to think beyond just testing athletes. It hit him that they could market the test to “a gigantic nationwide group.”
The group Galinkin had in mind was anyone in the greater medical population needing an economically priced and broad-based drug test with 99.9 percent accuracy—every pediatric and adult pain clinic, methadone clinic, addiction center, any state that now requires urine tests to refill long-term prescriptions, and any physician prescribing opioids wanting to check on patient compliance.
There are currently only two other non-profit organizations doing similar testing in the country—Mayo Medical Laboratories and the ARUP Laboratories at the University of Utah. The two collect billions of dollars annually for clinical testing, Galinkin said.
He and Whitaker spent the first half of 2011 studying the market potential and perfecting the test. By June of 2011, they took on their first customer, who brought 89 samples, each to be tested for 112 drugs. But what they thought would be the big launch of a new business revealed dramatic problems.
“Now, we had it all …”
While Galinkin and Whitaker bring equal amounts of passion to their venture, each approaches the future with a different focus. Galinkin brings a medical perspective to the table. He says fellow physicians tell him they are changing the way they practice based on this test.
“If you just look for what you expect to see, that’s what you will see,” Galinkin said. The industry’s standard urine drug screens require physicians to specify the drugs for which they require screening, but the CU Toxicology test sheds light on drug use and abuse physicians would not have otherwise detected.
“If you look for everything—all drugs—there’s a big picture of medical information you get,” Galinkin said. “Doctors are blown away by what they are seeing.”
For drug rehab centers and physicians, a comprehensive and highly accurate test removes the denial and the deception from drug use and addiction.
“This test has good eyesight,” Galinkin said. “If you use us to test, you will get the right answer—no escape.”
When Whitaker looks ahead, he thinks business. He believes the test will find a wide market, largely because it is priced competitively, testing for 112 drugs at the same price that clients traditionally have paid to test for five to 10 drugs.
He emphasizes that CU Toxicology is not a straightforward business partnership—it is truly a collaboration. Because it is housed in an internationally recognized research university, CU Toxicology is able to capitalize on immediately available resources—scientific research, state-of-the-art equipment and a practical clinical environment that is the largest and most active of its kind in the Rocky Mountain region.
Collaborating in this manner not only allows access to the wealth of resources available, but also returns revenue to the university. It is an unusual model for tech transfer, since the technology and revenue will stay at home.
“This is a time of diminishing revenue streams on medical campuses,” Whitaker said. “[CU Toxicology] is a new revenue stream that can only get bigger.”
Whitaker and Galinkin created the company under the CU brand deliberately in order to leverage CU’s strong reputation. The next step will be to expand with professional sales and marketing. Whitaker dreams big—he imagines CU Toxicology in its own building on the Anschutz Medical Campus, a billion-dollar entity within the School of Medicine, employing thousands of people.
“This is a new model for tech transfer success,” said Whitaker. “It combines an academically driven business with an innovative and in-demand clinical product. We believe it will also be a great model for business growth within the university.”
Published: August 19, 2013