University Technology Transfer: Fast-Track for Innovation or Stumbling Block to Commercialization?
Every year billions are spent on academic research, with the grand majority going to the life sciences. With each new discovery can come the potential to create tomorrow’s transformative products and new jobs. But the journey from discovery to market is rarely linear and is riddled with technical, regulatory and commercial risk. The technology transfer office (TTO) is often a stop on this journey, charged with mediating the conversation between academic innovators and industry resources. The job of the TTO is significant- in 2010 alone, US universities helped to form 651 start-ups and executed over 4,000 licenses to external firms. In Los Angeles, City of Hope National Medical Center’s licensing of recombinant DNA technology to Genentech set the scene for modern biotech. That deal led to the discovery of human insulin, the world’s first FDA approved bioengineered drug, and laid the groundwork for Genentech’s blockbuster drugs, such as Herceptin, Avastin, Rituxan, and Synagis.
However, though TTOs can point to Genentech and other examples of major successes, there is controversy about whether the current model is effective. Indeed, many would argue that the very name of Technology Transfer Office is a misnomer; that they inhibit more than transfer. The harshest critics accuse TTOs of being too concerned with trying to pick the next blockbuster innovation while ignoring many others. Additionally, they lambast TTOs for putting the university’s interests too far above those of inventors, companies, or society. As evidence, they point out debacles such as the same licensing agreements which gave rise to Genentech also resulting in a 10-year long legal battle over royalties. Less stringent critics feel TTOs have broadly benevolent goals but simply lack sufficient resources to effectively deal with many discoveries. In either case, the end result is the same- that TTO reform and alternative models are needed to remove the bottleneck preventing more academic breakthroughs from reaching practical use. Furthermore, questions abound about whether universities even have the right to claim intellectual property developed with taxpayer funding. Thus,in this panel we aim to elucidate the pitfalls and benefits of the TTO to industry, academia, and society, criticisms of the current model, and ways to improve it.
5:00 pm to 5:20 pm: Registration
5:20 pm to 5:30 pm: OBR and speaker introduction
5:30 pm to 6:45 pm: Panel discussion and Q&A
6:45 pm to 8:00 pm: Drinks & Networking session
- When: Wednesday, 20th November 2013 @ 5:00pm
- Start: 20 November 2013
- End: 20 November 2013