Academic researchers often work with pharmaceutical companies to commercialize efficacious treatments or drugs. Typically, the pharmaceutical company provides funding for initial research in exchange for the first rights to buy promising results. In other cases, the company purchases or licenses the research without providing initial funding. With the economy struggling, federal funding for academic research has declined and pharmaceutical companies face increased competition from generic drugs.

Against this backdrop, a collaboration between Ballard Spahr client Vanderbilt University and Johnson & Johnson to produce drugs to treat schizophrenia stands out as a win-win situation. The arrangement allows Vanderbilt researchers to go beyond identifying promising compounds and into "drug optimization," or developing pharmaceuticals to the point of human trials. Dr. Jeffrey Conn, a Vanderbilt pharmacology professor and former Merck researcher, and his drug discovery team will optimize the drugs.

The arrangement will be lucrative for Vanderbilt, which is expected to receive $10 million from J&J within the next three years and as much as $100 million if all research milestones are met. Members of Ballard Spahr's pharmaceutical patents team counseled Vanderbilt on the patent strategy and prepared the patent applications on the licensed technology underlying the collaboration. They will continue to represent Professor Conn and Vanderbilt in patent strategy and prosecution for all drug discovery efforts.