Partnerships Blast Off at the Frederick National Laboratory in FY 2018

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket CRS-16 lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 on Dec 5, 2018 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla.

FREDERICK, Md. -- It has been a busy year for the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research Partnership Development Office (PDO). The national laboratory formed dozens of new collaborations, bringing in millions of dollars in partner contributions to enable vital cancer and HIV/AIDS research. 

Over the past fiscal year, the Frederick National Laboratory (FNL) signed seven Memorandums of Understanding, more than the previous six years combined. FNL signed five contractor Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (cCRADAs), three material cCRADAs, and eight Research Collaboration Agreements. The national laboratory also signed five new Technical Service Agreements (TSAs) and executed 71 work orders under existing TSAs. In addition, the Technical Service Program added five new services, expanding the TSA portfolio to 26 laboratory services.

These numbers sound good, but what do they really mean?

They mean that the Frederick National Laboratory is now working closely with cancer centers and academic institutions to provide more training and research opportunities to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows at the FNL’s laboratories and under the mentorship of outstanding FNL scientists. The national laboratory has partnered with both local and international institutions: Hood CollegeGeorgetown UniversityFrederick CRESTMount St. Mary’s University, and the National Cancer Institute of Mexico, just to name a few. 

They mean that there are currently KRAS proteins undergoing crystallization aboard the U.S. International Space Station National Laboratory. If successful, the space-bound experiment is expected to reveal physical features of some of the most deadly and difficult to target proteins involved in cancer. Mutations in KRAS proteins are responsible for one-third of all human cancers. The microgravity environment of the space station is expected to enable better quality crystals than can be created on Earth, which could allow FNL scientists to develop clearer images. The more detailed the structures, the more scientists can learn from them. 

They mean that the Frederick National Laboratory helped found the Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine (ATOM), a public–private consortium developing a drug discovery platform using supercomputing, large biological data sets, and emerging biotechnologies with the goal of accelerating the drug discovery process from a slow, six-year process to just one year. 

They mean that the Frederick National Laboratory is now more available to external researchers via its expanded Technical Service Program. Researchers from around the world can now access a HPV genotyping service that can detect 40% more HPV types than the current gold-standard research test. In addition, drug developers now have access to a shared analytical technology, developed at the FNL, that helps fine-tune nanomedicine formulations and can assist with FDA approval of nanomedicines. 

These examples offer just a glimpse into the numerous partnerships created this year. The Frederick National Laboratory also has partnerships with small startups around cutting-edge biotechnologies, with universities to enhance the immune response to vaccines and develop improved models for AIDS research, with pharmaceutical companies to test promising molecules and compounds, and many others. The FNL pipeline is filled with even more exciting opportunities. 

To keep its pipeline robust, the FNL Partnership Development Office is always on the lookout for its next strategic partner, whether it be a startup biotech company, university, international pharmaceutical company, or nonprofit organization. The PDO is looking for any entities that can enhance the FNL’s mission and advance cancer research. Perhaps you have seen the PDO on the partnership hunt at a local networking event. If you live outside of Maryland, you still may have seen the PDO at the BIO International Symposium, Federal Laboratory Consortium meetings, AACR Annual Meeting, the AUTM Annual Meeting, or the ASCO Annual Meeting. 

The PDO did a lot of traveling this year. In addition to presenting at local events, the office was invited to the Morehouse School of Medicine to give a presentation in February and served on a panel at the 2018 AACR Annual Meeting. The PDO also staffed a booth at the 2018 TEDCO Entrepreneur Expo where it met dozens of local entrepreneurs. These represent just a few events from a full calendar.

The PDO also helped host several events here at the Frederick National Laboratory. The 2018 Technology Showcase—held in partnership with National Cancer Institute (NCI) Office of Technology Transfer, TEDCO, Frederick City, and Frederick County—drew around 200 science and business professionals to learn about technologies being developed at the NCI and FNL. The Frederick National Laboratory is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and operated by Leidos Biomedical Research. The Biotech Connector series, which was relaunched this year with the help of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and Frederick CREST, also had strong attendance. 

As you may have noticed, the PDO has also been active on social media and has generated content for the FNL website to connect with partners beyond the office’s physical reach. 

The PDO is looking forward to another successful year in 2019 and is excited to continue meeting new potential partners that can help the Frederick National Laboratory fulfill its critical mission to serve as a national resource for biomedical research.

Image: SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket CRS-16 lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 on Dec 5, 2018 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla. The CRS-16, a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, carried more than 5,600 pounds of supplies to the ISS, including 250 research and science projects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)​

Published December 20, 2018