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Chinese hackers discovered after two years of sifting through Penn State research


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

Penn State University, which develops sensitive technology for the U.S. Navy, disclosed last week that Chinese hackers have been sifting through its engineering school’s computers for more than two years.

As a huge research institution, Penn State offers a potential treasure trove of technology that’s already being developed with partners for commercial applications. The breach suggests that foreign spies could be using universities as a backdoor to U.S. commercial and defense secrets.

Because the hackers are so deeply embedded in the engineering school’s computer network, the system will be taken offline for several days while investigators work to get rid of the intruders.

“This was an advanced attack against our College of Engineering by very sophisticated threat actors,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in a letter to the campus community. “This is an incredibly serious situation, and we are devoting all necessary resources to help the college recover as quickly as possible.”

The FBI notified the university of the breach in November 2014, which led to an intense investigation that eventually found two separate groups of hackers stealing data.

The first group has been linked by investigators to the Chinese government. The second group has not been identified, the university says, but investigators believe it is also the work of state-sponsored hackers.

The investigation and remediation efforts have already cost Penn State millions of dollars, according to university provost Nicholas Jones.

U.S. engineering schools — Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and Johns Hopkins University — have been among the top targets of Chinese hacking and other intelligence operations for many years. These forays have been for both commercial and defense purposes, and universities have struggled to secure their computers against these advanced attacks.

U.S. officials said Chinese cyber and conventional espionage directed at American universities, companies and research laboratories has increased with the size and sophistication of Chinese computer spying.

According to investigators, the Chinese are focusing a good deal of their spying on the design and control of unmanned aerial, ground and undersea vehicles, along with the communications systems linking American reconnaissance and navigation satellites to ground stations.

In addition to online hacking, the Chinese have sent legions of graduate students to U.S. schools and have tried to recruit students, faculty members and others at both universities and government research facilities, several recent investigations show.

“There is an active threat and it is against not just Penn State but against many different organizations across the world, including higher education institutions,” said Nick Bennett, a senior manager at Mandiant, a security division of FireEye Inc., which aided the university in the investigation. Universities “need to start addressing these threats aggressively,” Bennett said.

Penn State has already notified 500 partners — companies, government agencies, and other universities — of the breach and possible risks. It has also notified 18,000 students and professors whose personal data, including social security numbers, were stored on one of the computers accessed by the hackers.

Jones said Penn State hopes to use its experience to help other universities that are also likely targets for advanced cyber spies and other intruders, providing information on the hack as well as advanced security measures the university is putting in place. “We don’t think we’re alone,” Jones said.

Source: Bloomberg

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Angel Fund-University TTO Partnerships: Case Study of STC.UNM and the New Mexico Angels


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

Crossing the Valley of Death is much easier with an angel on your shoulder. Just ask tech transfer leaders at The University of New Mexico’s STC.UNM, who’ve built a unique relationship with the New Mexico Angels that has brought in critical funding for university start-ups and shown the value of supporting the entrepreneurial community for the economic benefit of the entire region.

The resulting launch of The Start-Up Factory has allowed investors to spread their money around, while producing a larger pool of investment for faculty start-ups. For STC, the close ties with the investment group means a ready source of funding for a selection of their most promising technologies, and a steady stream of successful companies.

On June 25th, you’ll have a chance to learn from their success and adapt their partnership model to your own organization. Join Lisa Kuuttila of STC and John Chavez from New Mexico Angels for this unique distance learning program: Angel Fund-University TTO Partnerships: Case Study of the University of New Mexico’s STC.UNM and the New Mexico Angels.

For complete details and to register, CLICK HERE.

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5 tasks tech transfer offices can automate to focus on what’s important


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

In his recent blog post, Steve Lott, business development manager at Inteum, offers five items that every tech transfer office should automate. As Lott admits, automation can be a scary idea. Working in a lab as a forensic DNA analyst, he was told after five years that the lab was being automated with robots. “It sounded awful,” he writes. “Would jobs go? Would it even work?” continue reading »

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Realizing potential: Keys to nurturing female-led innovation


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

Female participation in innovation and technology transfer activities is becoming a spotlight issue at many universities, thanks in part to the forward-thinking women leaders participating in the Association of University Technology Managers’ Women Inventors Committee (AUTM WIC). “Female faculty members are one resource that every TTO has,” says Jean Baker, JD, PhD, a partner and patent attorney in the Milwaukee office of Quarles & Brady LLP. “Getting those faculty to participate in innovation allows TTOs to make the most of their resources. A lack of female inventors and entrepreneurs means that a university is leaving exciting technologies and great opportunities for revenue sitting in a drawer.”

Bringing women faculty into a university’s innovation ecosystem isn’t a high-cost proposition, she says. “It doesn’t take a big up-front investment to generate a big pay-off. Women will step up, become inventors, and start companies when TTOs lay the right entrepreneurial framework.”

In addition to being good for individual universities, involving more women “is for the good of all of us,” says Baker. “It’s for the societal good that we have these companies developed.”

AUTM WIC is leading the charge by encouraging TTOs nationwide to track gender data to gain a better understanding of how women participate in innovation and determine best practices for increasing female involvement. An in-depth series of articles on encouraging women innovators are featured as a special focus in the May issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the articles, as well as the publication’s rich archive containing hundreds of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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How the old VC model is being disrupted, and why it’s a win for start-ups


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

In his recent article for Entrepreneur, venture capitalist Sam Hogg discusses how the recent wave of alternative fund-seeking routes for start-ups has rattled the old VC model, and how today’s VCs are dealing with it. continue reading »

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University Start-Up Boot Camp Volume III: Achieving Maximum Success


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

We’ve just released Volume III of UNIVERSITY START-UP BOOT CAMP. The latest edition of this critically acclaimed distance learning collection – which now totals well over 20 hours of high-level training — contains more than 7 hours of detailed guidance and advice led by a world-class roster of academic start-up experts. UNIVERSITY START-UP BOOT CAMP VOLUME III: Achieving Maximum Success has immediately useable takeaways focused on some of the most critical topics and challenges in university start-up management, including:

  • Creating and managing campus business plan competitions
  • How to speed the launch of start-ups via accelerators and ensure more companies survive long-term
  • Establishing a university-backed VC to guarantee a ready source of funding
  • Negotiating tips for equity deals and anti-dilution terms
  • How to set and manage realistic start-up milestones
  • Lean marketing and digital media strategies for your start-ups

For complete agenda and faculty details on Volume III of this popular professional development program, CLICK HERE >>

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Swedish mining equipment company licenses automated technology from Queen’s University


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

Parteq Innovations, the tech transfer arm of Queen’s University (QU) in Ontario, has partnered with Atlas Copco, a Swedish manufacturer of industrial tools and equipment, to develop a new underground mining automation technology. continue reading »

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N.C. Biotechnology Center launches new grant program to fill early stage gap


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center, a private nonprofit corporation focused on developing the state’s biotech industry, has launched a new program to assist scientists in the very early stages of commercializing their research. The Biotech Center aims to expand its current level of funding life sciences companies by investing even earlier, when scientists are still deciding if they even have a viable idea. continue reading »

The Mind the Gap Report is chock-full of must-have strategies to help universities build, expand, or partner with gap funding programs. Click here for details >>

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Stanford researchers discover method to distinguish sepsis from sterile inflammation


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a gene pattern that could help scientists develop a blood test to quickly and accurately detect whether a patient is experiencing sepsis, a deadly syndrome that acts like a panic attack in the immune system. continue reading »

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NASA releases over 1,000 free software programs


By David Schwartz
Published: May 19th, 2015

NASA has released its second annual Software Catalog of more than 1,000 software programs for industry, government agencies and the general public to access for free. continue reading »

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CU professor arrested for using his company to sell marked-up lab equipment to the university


By David Schwartz
Published: May 13th, 2015

A former professor at the University of Colorado (CU) has been arrested on suspicion of launching a company to sell marked-up lab equipment to the CU-Boulder campus in what prosecutors are calling a theft “scheme.”

Donald Cooper is facing a felony charge of theft between $20,000 and $100,000. Prosecutors are alleging that he created the company Boulder Science Resource to buy lasers and other lab equipment that he marked up 300% and then resold to his CU lab, according to an arrest affidavit. The scheme also implicates Cooper’s father, who received a salary and a car from Boulder Science Resource.

In total CU paid the company $97,554.03 between January 1st, 2009, and April 30th, 2013, according to the affidavit. The university calculates that Cooper’s mark-ups cost CU $65,036, with some of that money coming from federal grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Boulder Science Resource case resembles another recent scandal involving faculty members selling equipment to their university. At the University of Connecticut (UConn), a number of faculty members who had a stake in AquaSeNT, a UConn spinoff, authorized the purchase of $250,000 worth of underwater communications equipment from the company. Though they did not disclose their interest in the AquaSenT at first, auditors later discovered that the faculty members did have a stake in the company. The school and the faculty involved are now under investigation and could be found in violation of both state and federal law. (For more on the UConn case, click here.)

In 2014, CU began the process of firing Cooper on suspicion of fiscal misconduct, and he resigned that July as part of a settlement deal. Though Cooper claims that his father Gary Cooper was in charge of the company and that it sold CU equipment “at prices that were greatly discounted,” prosecutors assert that the professor “employed a scheme” to deceive CU for his own benefit, according to the affidavit.

“It is alleged that [Boulder Science Resource] was created to defraud the University of Colorado by acting as a middleman to generate income to employ Gary and to provide personal benefit for Cooper,” wrote Alisha Baurer, an investigator in the District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s Office determined that Cooper’s father received $23,785.80 from the company in the form of salary and a car. It also found that $31,974.89 was paid from the company’s accounts to Cooper’s personal credit card, while $14,733.54 went to his personal PayPal account.

CU’s internal investigation discovered that Boulder Science Resource had no customers other than the university and Mobile Assay, a start-up Cooper founded based on a technology he developed while at CU. “It is internal audit’s conclusion that the forgoing acts/failures to act were done with intent to gain an unauthorized benefit,” the audit report reads.

Patrick O’Rourke, CU’s chief legal officer, says the university was aware of Cooper’s arrest and will cooperate with prosecutors.

Source:  Daily Camera

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Drafting Improvements Clauses in University IP Licenses


By David Schwartz
Published: May 13th, 2015

Some of the most complex IP rights are the “improvements” on licensed innovations. Though it is hard to define what qualifies as an improvement, it generally means modifications, additions, updates, enhancements, and developments made to existing IP. Since the vast majority of university IP still in development, more often than not there will be improvements made before it’s commercialized.

But negotiating improvements rights is muddled with commonly misunderstood terms, complex royalty adjustments, and thorny sublicensing issues just to name a few. Nailing down the terms for improvements early on is a crucial step to protecting your stake in the IP as well as maintaining a harmonious relationship with your licensee.

That’s why Technology Transfer Tactics has partnered with IP law expert Larry Schroepfer to lead this detailed webinar on June 17: Drafting Improvements Clauses in University IP Licenses. Attendees will get an invaluable legal consult on this tricky area, so you can arm yourself with solid negotiating and drafting skills to protect your IP.

For complete program details, CLICK HERE.

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