Linking Ideas & Innovation

Archive for May, 2007

How do conflict-of-interest policies affect technology transfer?

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Yesterday The Harvard Crimson published and article, “Tear Down This Wall? Harvard wants to get its research out of the lab—but are its policies standing in the way?” The article is a pretty lengthy discussion of the conflicts that a conflict-of-interest policy can have in the area of technology transfer at Harvard, particularly in he area of new venture creation. Young companies are often cash strapped and tend to prefer to compensate through stock options. Harvard has a black and white policy that would require the investigator to either decline the stock-based compensation or stop working on the research — neither of which is entirely desirable because both solutions mess up the incentives for working together. Other schools have similar policies, though allow for exceptions in exceptional situations.

It is clear to me that some type of policy is needed, though I’m not sure that an absolute policy of any kind is the best solution for something as dynamic as early-stage research. Harvard is trying to encourage its faculty to become more entrepreneurial. It will be interesting to watch how this policy evolves to make this prospect more enticing.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute: A Standard for Openness

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

I was just reading the president’s letter from the May 2007 edition of the HHMI Bulletin published by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In it, Thomas Cech summarizes the conclusions of a National Research Council committee in which he chaired in 2003. The committee was charged with taking a fresh look at the responsibilities of scientists to share the data and materials referenced in original research articles. They developed a concept that they called UPSIDE which stands for the Uniform Principle for Sharing Integral Data and Materials Expeditiously.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute has long required their investigators to share their published research materials to the extent possible. In fact, their policy on sharing these materials is transparent and broad. Their policy states that they will share materials within 60 days from request, which includes the negotiation of a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA). It contains specific terms for materials, data & databases, and software. It also clearly states the responsibilities of those requesting these materials, all of which seem reasonable to me.

While I haven’t read many statements by research institutes on their policy for sharing materials, given the way that I often hear MTAs discussed I suspect that not many research institutes require their investigators to share. Yes, it can be a burden to prepare, list and license materials, though with new tools like the iBridge Network, the Science Commons MTA standardization and others this burden is becoming lighter every day.

Nobelist Max Perutz has noted that, “True science thrives best in glass houses, where everyone can look in.” True science also benefits when research articles and materials are freely available after publication. Given the huge benefit to science and future discoveries, I hope that the recent successes by iBridge members in sharing materials in a low-transaction cost manner are just the tip of the iceberg in helping to fuel future innovation and discovery.

I welcome your comments on the subject of openness:

Federal Lab Consortium Announces ’07 Tech Transfer Awards

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

The Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) today issued its 2007 FLC Awards: Awards for Excellence in Technology Transfer. Among the winners is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and AerovectRX Corp., which licensed CDC technology that allows therapies and vaccines to be administered via an easy-to-breathe mist.

According to the FLC’s awards material, CDC and AerovectRX are being honored for their ability to partner and successfully commercialize innovation developed by the federal government.

In one other award category, Dr. Theresa Baus won the “Outstanding Technology Transfer Professional Award.” Baus is head of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center‘s Office of Research and Technology Applications. Baus was honored this year, according to the FLC, for her work in developing a new model to “forge relationships between the Navy and the private sector.”

The FLC is a federally chartered organization, established in 1974, that acts as a national network of federal lab and research institutes.

iBridge Network Information Sessions

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

Signing up is easy. Just send 2-3 dates and times that you have open for about 1 hour. Once you do this, you’ll receive a confirmation email with all of the relevant information and with easy instructions to log into the session.Any questions, just let Katie know at or call 816.932.1021.


Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Pat Jones, Director of the University of Arizona Office of Technology Transfer, a charter iBridge Network school, was named the 2007 Technology Transfer Fellow by the University’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. This recognition honors Pat’s work on the economic development of Arizona.

As a fellow, we know that Pat will fulfill his roll as a role models, teacher, and mentor, just as he and the University of Arizona have done for the iBridge Network.

Congrats from the entire iBridge Network community, Pat!

U.S. Universities Continue to Drive Biotech Innovation

Friday, May 11th, 2007

At the Bio International Convention 2007, which took place earlier this week in Boston, the iBridge Network (along with the Kauffman Foundation) made a strong presence before the assemblage. If you’ve ever had a chance to attend this conference, you know of its unique brand of energy and all out global marketing competition (which means you get to bring home a bagful of conference swag for the kids).

Along this line, one major study, released on Monday at the conference, showed good news for university-based life sciences research. (Here’s an article on this report in The Financial Times.)

The study, conducted by Marks and Clerk, a United Kingdom-based law firm, found that among the world’s top twenty patent filing entities, academia beats out corporate by 51 percent in regard to patent production between 2002-2006.

The report also showed the world’s top patent filers, over the last five years, are the Japan Science and Technology Agency, the University of California, the U.S. government, Genentech, Inc., and the University of Texas. And note that the top twenty list is comprised mostly of U.S. universities. In addition, The Financial Times notes the study found the most influential biotech-related patents (based on their citation frequency) are all held by U.S. universities (with MIT/Harvard in the lead).


DoD’s New DaVenCi Code

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Would you believe the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is drinking more of the Silicon Valley Kool Aid? That is, a new DoD program, called the Defense Venture Catalyst Initiative (or DaVenCi for short) is working to link up its personnel with venture capitalists who recommend for military use new innovations and technologies being developed by startups around the country.

The point is that DoD may be evolving out of old-style procurement and speeding up dramatically its identification and acquisition of technologies it needs for national defense. The New York Times earlier this week ran a piece on how all of this is coming about.

And for more, consider Tech Transfer eNews‘s (subscription required) angle on this topic in its recent issue, which is that universities have an equally vital role to play (along with VCs) with regard to programs like DaVenCi. “The initiative — and the article — ignore the potential role of university tech transfer in that effort,” according to eNews. And it adds: “The focus on VC’s shouldn’t stop determined tech transfer managers from marketing their IP.”

Life Sciences Industry Shows Signs of Life

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

If there was any doubt about the biotech’s global growth potential, a new report from Ernst & Young may help tamp that down.

In its 21st annual report on the life sciences sector, Ernst & Young’s study, Beyond Borders: Global Biotechnology Report 2007, shows strong growth in nearly every industry metric for 2006. Overall capital raised for 2006 was $27.9 billion — a 42 percent increase from the previous year. Overall VC dollars raised globally in 2006 was a record $5.4 billion.

In addition, revenues for public biotech companies globally reached a record high of $70 billion — and revenue growth reached double digit levels in the United States (14 percent), Canada (22 percent), and Europe (14 percent).

Alongside all of this good news (the caveat), the study notes the U.S. biotech industry remains unprofitable in the aggregate, but says industry experts expect to see this improve to profitability by the end of this decade.

In addition, the study found global M&A deals reached the second highest levels in the industry’s history (and deal values with U.S. companies totaled a record $23 billion.) On a more practical level, the study also found the U.S. life sciences industry won 36 product approvals in 2006 — up from 33 approvals in the previous year.

Last, the report showed that U.S. life sciences firms (public and private) earned a total of $59 billion in revenues last year — a 13 percent increase from 2005.


Supremes Strike a Blow Against Patent Holders

Friday, May 4th, 2007

There’s little doubt the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision earlier this week on the issue of patent rights was momentous. If you missed the story (it didn’t seem to get a whole lot of front-page coverage), the Supremes handed down a decision that may make it harder to get a patent as well as defend one.

The crux of the issue is whether an idea submitted for patenting passes the “obviousness” test. The court, more or less, ruled on the side of mandating that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office be more willing to deny patent protection to something that’s less a true innovation and more an ordinary, incremental advance.

For a completely substantive review of this issue, here’s a link to The Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog, which offers a detailed post on this topic. Look for links to the actual opinion, major news stories, and to various expert legal reviews of the decision.

New Incubator Idea May Fuel More Innovation

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007’s Mark Benioff has come up with an idea that is being billed as “Incubator 2.0″ by As recently reported by BusinessWeek, Benioff last month launched a business incubator within his own company.

The purpose is to bring in startups under one roof and let them at the task of helping build new software solutions for The companies invited in get no financing from Benioff and they pay rent (about $20K annually), but they get some traditional incubator services, including watercooler networking with fellow innovators and no worries on office space.

All of this seems fairly unique in the annals of corporate support for R&D of new products and applications. To be sure, there are many who don’t believe business incubation is all its cut out to be, but Benioff’s move certainly is worth tracking in the months ahead. 


William Garner, M.D., MPH – CEO of Urigen, N.A., Inc.

"The iBridge Network provides an important additional pathway for entrepreneurs to access university innovations that may otherwise have been lost.  read more...