IPWatchdog Blog: “In Search of Technology Transfer Best Practices”

Gene Quinn of IPWatchdog.com covered the BIO-AUTM Technology Transfer Symposium this past week, on May 4, 2010 at the 2010 BIO International Convention.

The Symposium attendees were high-level experts on technology transfer policy looking to get to the “brass tacks” of issues concerning innovation, federally funded research, and creative licensing schemes for product development in the United States.

Below is a quotation from IPWatchdog’s coverage:

Last week while at the 2010 BIO International Convention, I attended the Tech Transfer Symposium, which was held on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom at McCormick Place. I had previously arranged an interview with Linda Katehi, Chancellor of the University of California (Davis), a transcript of that conversation appears below. At the outset of the Tech Transfer Symposium Katehi gave an introductory presentation on technology transfer that lead into a panel discussion.  As an Electrical Engineer, Professor and now Chancellor in the UC system, Katehi has a lot of experience with technology transfer, and for those Universities struggling to figure out how to license out technology in a successful manner they could learn an awful lot from Katehi. Her presentation and the time I spent thereafter with her continued to facilitate my understanding of why some Universities succeed and others fail.

Katehi also has some interesting suggestions regarding what the Patent Office could do to help Universities, both in speeding up the patent process and in keeping costs lower.  I learned a lot from speaking with Katehi, which supplemented my knowledge based on my experiences at Syracuse University.  What I am continually piecing together suggests that there is no great surprise why most Universities do not do a better job with respect to technology transfer.  There are things that are clearly considered best practices in the private sector that seem to elude Universities for the most part.  The University of California system seems to be out in front and trying to bring the best practices of the private sector into Universities.  It is no wonder they do a better job than most with technology transfer.

Full summary of the BIO-AUTM Technology Transfer Symposium:

Today’s Technology Transfer Symposium’s panel on The Role of Universities, Biotechnology Companies and Technology Transfer in the Innovation Economy included an active debate on issues ranging from increasing the odds for a successful partnership and the pros and cons of the Bayh-Dole Act.  Andrew Cittadine, Co-founder & CEO of American BioOptics, Linda P.B. Katehi, Chancellor of the University of California (Davis), Steve Mento, President and CEO of Conatus Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Tom Skalak, Vice President for Research, University of Virginia, all participated in the conversation, moderated by Robin A. Chadwick of Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner.

Skalak noted during the panel that one of the keys to a successful partnership is “diverse eyeballs on the project,” which can help in making good decisions.  As an example, he pointed to a deal his university is involved in with AstraZeneca.  Cittadine underscored the importance of finding a good fit between the university and the biotech firm.

In discussing Bayh-Dole, all the panelists agreed that the Act has brought a lot of benefit to the industry, although there is room for improvement.  The Act “provides incentives to institutions to bring research to the marketplace,” explained Katehi.  Under Bayh-Dole, “ideas can emerge,” she added.  While she acknowledged that changes are needed, Katehi explained that if the Act is eliminated “there will be millions of good ideas, but no process for bringing them forward.”

Mento agreed, stating, “Bayh-Dole made the biotech industry possible.”  He noted that the system worked in the beginning, but it has now “evolved into a system where the focus is on short term return.”  It’s “impossible” to make the economics work, Mento said.

Cittadine added, the framework in Bayh-Dole is what enables new ideas to get funding.  Skalak, meanwhile, noted that without Bayh-Dole, discovery-oriented research would not happen.

Did you attend the Symposium? Interested in materials, or in joining the BIO Technology Transfer Committee? Email me at mnoriega@bio.org.

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