ABIA draws international attention

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

An Akron partnership formed to boost medical-related research and economic development in the region is drawing international attention.

A group of 16 pharmaceutical executives, government officials and university leaders from Beijing have been in Akron this week to meet with officials from the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron (ABIA).

The visit is part of the Chinese delegation’s three-week visit to the United States to explore resources and partnership possibilities.

ABIA officials are signing an agreement today with the Beijing Pharma and Biotech Center to work together on technology transfer, training and cooperation on future projects.

“China is very big in polymers, so the relationship of the greater Akron area and our polymer strategies is something,” said Dr. Frank L. Douglas, the BioInnovation Institute’s president and chief executive.

Douglas previously served as an adviser for the Beijing Pharma and Biotech Center and helped the organization develop their biotech cluster strategy in the Chinese city.

The Beijing center is a municipal government consulting agency that includes research institutions, universities, biomedical businesses and entrepreneurs.

The cooperation among the partners in ABIA is impressive, said Ting Lei, director of the Beijing Pharma and Biotech Center, through translator Helen Xue, a coordinator with the Beijing center. He said he plans to encourage other industry leaders from Beijing to visit Akron.

The BioInnovation Institute is a partnership among Akron’s three hospital systems, the University of Akron and Northeast Ohio Medical University, with support from the Knight Foundation and FirstEnergy Corp.

“Based on my experience, the very impressive thing that’s happening here is the cooperation between the hospitals and institutions as well as the entrepreneurs,” Lei said. “Beijing, although it has a large number of the best hospitals and universities in the world and a lot of entrepreneurs, the cooperation … is far behind Akron.”

Along with projects involving biomedical application for polymers, the two organizations also can work together on medical device development, Lei said.

The meetings with the Chinese representatives are the latest in a series of international visits the BioInnovation Institute has been hosting in recent weeks with partners or clients from throughout the globe.

Representatives from the Brazilian Ministry of Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force also were in Akron earlier this week to explore opportunities to work with ABIA on disaster preparedness training.

Last week, leaders from Slovenia’s Centre of Excellence for Polymer Materials and Technologies met with ABIA officials to discuss continuing and expanding a partnership the two organizations forged last year.

ABIA also is in talks with representatives from India who are interested in replicating a high-tech simulation center the institute operates for training and testing new products, Douglas said.

Patrick Lee, chief executive of the Chinese National Human Genome Center in Beijing, said he was impressed during his visit to the simulation center, as well as ABIA’s efforts to bring researchers and entrepreneurs together for product development.

“I really learned a lot,” he said.

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or Follow Powell on Twitter at


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