March 2012

Taking technology out of the lab and into the world

 

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Cassidy attends the 2011 BIO International Convention in Washington, D.C., with Lani Hummel, director of corporate partnerships at Johns Hopkins University, and R. Keith Baker, senior director for licensing at the Hopkins tech-transfer office.

I had started my first year of a part-time M.B.A. program at the University of Maryland while I was working at the company and finished that degree after my return to academic technology transfer. Working full time and going to school part time was surely a grind, as anyone who has experienced it will tell you. However, I am very grateful that I rounded out my scientific knowledge with the business knowledge and acumen that I acquired through my M.B.A. program. I feel my doctoral and master’s degrees and patent agent status touch upon all three cornerstones of technology transfer.

Our office receives Invention Disclosure Reports from faculty in the general areas of devices, diagnostics, therapeutics, and research tools and reagents. In my initial review of an IDR, I use my science background to understand what the invention is. I also tap into my business experience to begin thinking about how this invention might be translated into a finished commercial product. In the early stages of review of a new IDR, my colleagues and I do preliminary patent landscape and market analyses to see if other patents and patent applications already exist in the field of the invention and whether the invention has the potential to generate revenues.

Another major component of technology transfer is business-development outreach and marketing. It is critical to find the right homes for technologies for further development. The first step is finding a potential licensee. Once a potential licensee confirms interest in a technology, then the negotiation process begins! Of course, one of the most important aspects of any new negotiation is determining the value of the technology. The goal of the negotiation is a fully executed license agreement.

To enter the world of technology transfer, I believe that you must have a broad interest in science. You should also demonstrate critical and analytical thinking and multitasking abilities. Good communication and people skills are crucial, because you have deal with a variety of people, ranging from the academic scientist to a company representative.

A great resource for learning more about technology transfer is the Association of University Technology Managers (http://www.autm.net). Many people in the field also belong to the Licensing Executives Society in the U.S. and Canada (www.lesusacanada.org; for international members, it’s www.lesi.org). An organization with a focus on intellectual property is the American Intellectual Property Law Association. Another resource that I would recommend can be found at http://www.cogr.edu/Pubs_intellectual.cfm.

Both the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health offer fellowships in technology transfer. For more information, please see http://ttc.nci.nih.gov/employment/crtafe.php and http://www.ott.nih.gov/about_nih/IRTA.aspx.

Alternatively, volunteering at your university’s technology transfer office is also a great way to learn more about the field and begin to gain experience. I suggest you contact your university’s technology transfer office and ask about volunteer opportunities.

Rachel Cassidy (rcassid1@jhmi.edu) is an associate director at Johns Hopkins University’s Technology Transfer Office in Baltimore.

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