By Jane Gottlieb
For Rensselaer chemistry professor Mark Wentland and his team, the eureka moment occurred with the realization that an opiate drug that his group discovered had triggered significant activity in the targeted area. Until then, most opiates were short-acting. This breakthrough held unusual promise for treating cocaine addiction and a number of diseases because of its long-lasting effect in animal tests. “My life’s ambition has been to identify a compound that’s actually helping people. That has been my entire focus for the last 37 years,” says the research scientist, who came to Rensselaer from the pharmaceutical industry in 1994.
Wentland had a choice: Go the traditional route of publishing findings in a scientific journal and then seek additional research grants, or try for development and clinical trials through a licensing agreement with a pharmaceutical company. Given that therapeutics are largely developed by such companies, the decision wasn’t difficult.
He began discussions with Rensselaer’s on-campus Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), which is charged with the intricate and relatively new task of linking discoveries of lab and classroom to the marketplace.