Harrington Discovery Institute

Harrington Discovery Institute: Exploring New Horizons of Healing, Health

One Family’s Unrivaled Generosity Signals Hope for Patients Worldwide

For physician-scientists and patients around the globe, the growing difficulty in getting new disease-battling drugs from research labs to the marketplace has been degenerating from worrisome trend to near-crisis.

University Hospitals and the Harrington family of suburban Hudson teamed up to reverse the trend. In February 2012, the Harringtons’ historic $50 million gift to UH established the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, an innovative way to empower and accelerate the translation of new therapies from laboratories to patients’ bedsides.

“Our goal is to provide a powerful new vehicle to carry exciting, high-potential ideas for breakthrough drugs over the ‘Valley of Death’ that lies between concept and clinical trial,” Ron G. Harrington explains. “It’s really an investment into humankind.”

The nonprofit Harrington Discovery Institute provides seed funding to select physician-scientists nationwide who have high-potential drug ideas. Its Innovation Support Center offers guidance and mentoring to those pacesetters from a prestigious National Advisory Board of leaders in academic medicine and the pharmaceutical industry.

The Harrington Discovery Institute is part of a larger Cleveland-based national therapeutics-development initiative. The institute works with for-profit development companies, including one funded by UH, the Harrington family and other visionary investors, BioMotiv

Within days of the gala unveiling of the $50 million gift and the innovative concepts to which it gave birth, the scientific community was abuzz. By summer, 130 physician-scientists had applied to become one of 10 Harrington Discovery Institute Scholar-Innovators, positions that provide two-year research grants of up to $200,000.

“Our goal is to provide a powerful new vehicle to carry exciting, high-potential ideas for breakthrough drugs over the ‘Valley of Death’ that lies between concept and clinical trial. It’s really an investment into humankind.”

Ron Harrington

Goutham Narla, MD, PhD, was so impressed by UH’s support of drug-development research that he moved to Cleveland from New York and its renowned Mount Sinai Hospital. He then became the inaugural recipient of a special Harrington Discovery Institute research award, the Harrington Distinguished Scholar (Early Career Award).

“The UH vision for combining rigorous research with its ultimate translation to medical practice is a breath of fresh air,” says Dr. Narla, a medical geneticist at UH Case Medical Center, who is known for identifying a mutant gene and deciphering its role in the spread of breast cancer. “Our model for applying and sharing intellectual and financial resources, a structured mentorship program, and commercial drug-development team is in a class all its own.”

He is especially grateful to the Harrington family.

“Mr. Harrington is an incredibly thoughtful, well-informed and successful entrepreneur,” says Dr. Narla, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “He and his family understand that having physician-scientists who treat patients can make the laboratory research more relevant.”

Harrington Discovery Institute Director Jonathan Stamler, MD, fully agrees. Dr. Stamler holds the Robert S. and Sylvia K. Reitman Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Innovation at UH Case Medical Center and the School of Medicine. He says Cleveland is becoming a global center for drug innovation – with patients as the biggest potential beneficiaries.

“You come to a great academic medical center,” he says, “because you believe that when the medicine we give you doesn’t work, we still have something up our sleeve.”

Goutham Narla, MD, PhD