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Johns Hopkins licensing revenue spikes in fiscal 2016

The Johns Hopkins University earned $58 million in licensing revenue in its 2016 fiscal year, three times more than in the prior year.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the university's commercialization office, attributed the spike in part to a major sublicensing deal between one of its portfolio companies, Immunomic Therapeutics, and Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma.

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Changes to the way the commercialization office structures licensing deals to increase up-front payment also contributed, said Neil Veloso, the executive director of technology transfer at Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures.

Licensing revenue of nearly $60 million isn't sustainable for Hopkins just yet, Veloso said. But as the university continues a push to commercialize more research and adds more companies like Immunomic to its portfolio, Hopkins should see licensing revenue grow, he said.

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Hopkins spends more on research and development than any other institution — $2.24 billion in fiscal 2014, about $1.9 billion of which was federally funded. But the university historically has lagged behind other top research universities in commercializing its research findings.

Institutions that are considered leaders in research commercialization, such as Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have been successful in bringing to market products that benefit society and provide ongoing royalty payments, Veloso said.

"You can tell from the Immunomic deal we're getting to that stage, where we have technologies that are moving along," Veloso said. "Once we get a nice portfolio of those, I would expect to see the same types of returns."

In October 2015, Immunomic, a biotechnology company using Hopkins therapeutics research to develop new vaccines, reached a $300 million deal to license its technology to Astellas Pharma.

Astellas plans to use Immunomic's vaccine design to develop new products to treat and prevent allergic diseases. In addition to the up-front payment of $300 million, the company gets 10 percent royalties on sales.

Veloso said he sees the most potential for Hopkins in therapeutics, which is any technology that can change the way disease is treated, such as new therapies or drugs. As demand for this type of technology grows among investors and pharmaceutical companies, Hopkins has been able to get more value out of its therapeutic technologies.

Veloso declined to discuss specifics about how much it costs to license technology from Hopkins, but said the price varies, depending on the technology, with a premium on higher-demand technologies.

Hopkins also is shifting the way it structures licensing agreements so that it receives more payment up front. In the past, the university may have received a greater portion of its licensing payment when the partner company hit milestones or brought its product to market. That approach meant taking on more risk, as not all companies succeed.

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