While conducting research, Vincenzo Cerullo, professor of biological drug development, had an idea on how to make the human immune system fight against cancer cells. But how could this idea about a cancer vaccination be made available to everyone? Would the idea be feasible and could someone help?
Yes, they can. The purpose of the University-owned Helsinki Innovation Services (HIS) is to help researchers commercialise their research outcomes. Indeed, Cerullo received help from experts at HIS, where his idea was studied and found to be feasible. The idea was developed further and in 2016 Valo Therapeutics Ltd was established, part-owned by the University of Helsinki Funds. The clinical tests of the developed vaccine are due to start this year.
Entrepreneurship has improved research
Vincenzo Cerullo currently works both as a researcher at the University of Helsinki and as an entrepreneur. He believes his work as an entrepreneur has also improved his work as a researcher. Apparently there are a number of reasons for this, but he especially wants to mention one:
“When research is not only conducted with a view to publishing something but also because you want to do something meaningful and contribute to change – that’s when you are extremely committed to the work and the work bears fruit,” says Cerullo.
It is worthwhile finding out about commercialisation opportunities for ideas
Making various innovations available to people is among the responsibilities of the University and one of its core duties, public engagement.
"Any research-based idea that could improve the wellbeing of people or the world should not be left in a desk drawer,” says Vice-Rector Paula Eerola.
Eerola emphasises that innovations may have their origins in different kinds of research. They run the whole gamut of services and technologies. Thus far research conducted at the University of Helsinki has spawned spinout companies, from a nanomedicine to early childhood education applications.
“If you get a feeling that ‘there might be something here', it is worthwhile to hear what the HIS team thinks about the commercialisation potential of the idea. Ideas can come about as a side product of research or by accident,” says Paula Eerola.
Aiming for 200 ideas in 12 months
Every year approximately 100 idea and invention disclosure notifications are submitted at the University of Helsinki. In comparison, approximately 300 are submitted annually at the University of Oxford and approximately 200 at the University of Oslo. The University of Helsinki has set a goal of doubling the number of notifications.
This aim is supported by the Your Idea 2020 campaign, which will have a visible presence on campuses and digital channels in a variety of ways. During the campaign, all researchers or researcher groups submitting an idea or invention disclosure notification will be paid a small fee as thanks. The fee amount is €300 if the notification is submitted by a single researcher. A notification submitted by more than one researcher will be paid a fee of €500, which will be evenly divided between the researchers.
“The reward is a small thanks for submitting a notification. The real reward comes if the innovation can be successfully commercialised. In this case, the researcher behind the idea will either be a partner in the company established and benefit in this way or, if the idea is licensed, the researcher will receive a significant part of the income created by licensing,” says Jari Strandman, CEO of HIS.
The campaign will run from 6 April 2020 to 5 April 2021. Read more about the rules of the campaign.
- A quick guide to commercialisation at the University of Helsinki
- The stages of the commercialisation process
- Interview with Professor Edward Haeggström and Jari Strandman at Slush 2019: ”The UH Way – Nanoform as an example of science-based innovation”
- Interview with Professor Vincenzo Cerullo and MP Juhana Vartiainen at Slush 2019: ”What could decision-makers do to promote science-based innovations”