The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation's J. Donald Capra
received the overall 2006 Journal Record Innovator of the Year award
at a ceremony honoring business innovation Thursday evening at the
Reed Center in Midwest City.
Capra earned the award for his role in transforming medical
research in Oklahoma into a major economic force.
Through his leadership as president of the Oklahoma Medical
Research Foundation (OMRF) for the past eight years, the foundation
has experienced a tremendous amount of success.
Seven companies have successfully spun off from the foundation -
InterGenetics, Zapaq, Proteomtech, Riley Genomics, HealthAide, JK
Autoimmunity, and Molecular Image. All are developing tests and
treatments for life-threatening diseases, and most are doing so
right here in Oklahoma City. In the process, these companies are
creating high-quality, well-paying jobs that will be a major factor
in Oklahoma's economy for years to come.
In addition, two other companies built on OMRF technologies -
Bioenvision and Renovis - have gone public and are developing
products that could have a major impact on many lives. Together,
they have a market capitalization of almost $1 billion.
A pair of drugs based on OMRF discoveries reached the market
under Capra's leadership, as well. One is the first-ever FDA-
approved drug for severe sepsis, the leading killer in America's
intensive-care units. The other is a revolutionary treatment for
children suffering from a life-threatening blood deficiency.
Together, these treatments have saved countless lives. They have
also created combined annual revenues of more than $200 million for
the companies that produce them - Eli Lilly and Baxter
As a result, OMRF is one of the few nonprofits for which
technology transfer actually makes money. Last year, with 125 active
U.S. patents and 35 active licenses, OMRF made a profit $4 million
from technology transfer.
Since 1997, OMRF has more than tripled the amount of competitive
grant dollars it received from the federal government. This has
catapulted OMRF into the top 20 independent medical research
institutes in the country. A newly released survey from the National
Institutes of Health shows Oklahoma was among the top 10 fastest-
growing states in federal research funding from 2000 to 2004.
There are about 90 independent medical research institutes around
the country, and we stack up well against them in just about every
category - new company formation, patents, research awards, Capra
said. There are some on the coast that are bigger and have greater
access to angel and venture financing, but when you look at
institutions in the middle of the country, we are really at the very
top of the class.
Capra is calling for help from the state Legislature to help
accomplish his next goal.
I would love to have the funds to start construction of a
research tower, which would allow us to expand our faculty, create a
critical mass of scientists and spin off more biotech companies
locally. But to do this now rather than in the next decade, we need
help from the state. I hope that our legislators have the foresight
to see what a crucial investment in the state's future this would
be, he said.
As we move forward, I hope we will see more Oklahoma investors
step up to provide angel and venture financing in the biotech area,
Capra said. …