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Pooled mentors-in-residence assist U Michigan’s “sister” universities statewide


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

Universities challenged by a lack of resources (and who isn’t these days?) have often found that collaboration can be an effective way to expand their commercialization efforts. But while such collaborations are not unusual, a network of universities in Michigan has moved into an area that appears to be unique: pooled Mentors-in-Residence (MiRs).

The program was the brainchild of Kenneth Nisbet, associate vice president for technology transfer at the University of Michigan, and is in fact a subset of a broader effort known as the the Tech Transfer Talent Network (T3N), launched in 2012. It was his goal, he recalls, to “transfer the success we’ve had at Michigan to others.”

It began with discussions between Nisbet and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), which he says provides “generous funding” to these efforts and others. “They asked me for some recommendations, and I suggested that rather than some centralized tech transfer capabilities, the talent programs led by us could be shared — but they had to be tailored,” says Nisbet. “I said that if they were willing to provide funding to offset our extra work and provide incentives, I’d submit a grant.”

Aided by matching funds from the MEDC, the T3N was created. In addition to Michigan, it includes Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Oakland University, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. T3N’s programs include:

  • Mentors-In-Residence.
  • Fellows — graduate students working part-time in licensing.
  • University Post-Doc Fellowships — start-up development, licensing, potential employment.
  • Catalyst Talent Resources — advisors, consultants and potential start-up management

Nisbet made the MiRs half-time positions. “I wanted them here regularly because our people expect it, so others could learn from you, so inventors could count on you,” he explains. They were usually retained for about 18 months, at 20 hours a week. “This way they could do something else,” Nisbet continues. “They are usually financially secure but they might want to teach, or consult, so half-time seemed to be the sweet spot.”

The mentors work with inventors and the TTO staff, as well as on the outside. “They are really a great resource for the assessment of a new idea,” says Nisbet. “Licensing people have a pretty good sense, but these mentors have other contacts to use for advice and connections.” Most of their work, he observes, relates to the start-up side — initial modeling; assessment; sometimes interim management; counseling and advice on the university side and the business side; introductions to VCs; accessing funds; and attracting talent.

The other schools involved in T3N, Nisbet says, have also tried to develop their own mentors, “but they have sometimes found that people like ours do not exist in other regions,” he observes. This is where the MiR pool comes in. “Funding and talent are critical to the process of commercializing inventions, but funding without talent is not as effective,” says Nisbet. The pools enable sharing that talent.

“We have had a pool of three people shared by the schools and managed centrally,” he explains, adding that a fourth slot has just opened up for four of the schools. The amount of time they spend at a school depends on the workload. “If there is a specific project there, they may go there a few times a month,” says Nisbet. The pool, he adds, “is like a SWAT team that can either combine their experiences or do something directly, and can even provide leads for talent.”

A detailed article on the pooled MiR program appears in the March issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and get the full article, plus access the publication’s rich 10-year archive filled with hundreds of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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Leading Chinese VC firm partners with NCET2 to fund American university start-ups


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

Leading Chinese venture firm Haiyin Capital has partnered with the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer (NCET2) to launch a fund for spinoffs from American universities. The American-Chinese University Growth Fund will provide at least $1 billion from Chinese VCs to American university startups over the next 10 years. continue reading »

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Next week: Webinar on drafting and negotiating preferential rights in IP licenses and SRAs


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

Preferential rights clauses allow customized access to IP assets and can be a significant negotiating point when drafting deals with research partners. But, if these provisions are improperly drafted or allocated in the license, you risk leaving dollars on the table — or even inadvertently giving away your future stake in the IP.

Next Tuesday, April 18, Drafting and Negotiating Preferential Rights in University IP Licenses and Sponsored Research Agreements will offer a detailed look at drafting and negotiation strategies and best practices for addressing the structure, assignment and enforcement of preferential rights. Join us for this important webinar led by University of Utah Technology and Licensing Manager Beth Drees, PhD, MBA, and Dr. Antoine Bellemare, Technology Transfer Officer at Université Laval. For details and to register, CLICK HERE.

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Two years after launch, Penn State’s innovation hubs are paying off


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

Pennsylvania State University is beginning to see returns from its initiative to invest in innovation hubs across the university’s multiple campuses. continue reading »

$100 discount for Tech Transfer eNews readers!

Get a full year of Industry-Sponsored Research Management for only $297 (you save $100), plus get a three-program distance learning collection of best practices FREE! CLICK HERE for details.

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Canada’s leading physical sciences lab launches new tech transfer arm


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

TRIUMF, Canada’s national particle accelerator laboratory, has launched a new commercialization arm. continue reading »

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U of Florida biotech center wins Incubator of the Year award


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

The University of Florida (UF)’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute (SMBI) has been named Incubator of the Year out of more than 7,500 institutions around the world. continue reading »

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Top University Business Incubators Global Benchmark report available


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

The Top University Business Incubators Global Benchmark report, from leading incubator benchmarking firm UBI Global, provides an in-depth look behind the scenes at top performing university incubators worldwide. In addition, purchasers of the new report receive their own free, personalized incubator benchmark scorecard.

The lastest edition of this one-of-a-kind report assessed over 800 incubators, benchmarking more than 300. It details what qualities make a top incubator and how they perform in comparison to average incubators. This report measures university incubators using the UBI Index benchmark framework with more than 60 key performance indicators. For the first time the report also includes a specific category dedicated to accelerators. Discover how your incubator compares on a wide range of data points, so you can spot weaknesses and improve performance.

For complete details and to order, CLICK HERE >>

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MIT raises $125M to launch new start-up accelerator The Engine


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is launching a new accelerator program to offer campus start-ups access to labs, talent and co-working spaces, but it won’t be bootstrapping the program. The school has raised $150 million to fund the project, putting up $25 million of its own funding paired with $125 million from outside investors. continue reading »

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U of Arizona spinoff licenses ‘beating heart’ cardiac graft to treat CHF


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

The University of Arizona (UA) College of Medicine at Tucson has licensed a ‘beating heart’ graft to regional start-up Avery Therapeutics. The technology is a biologically active cardiac graft that can be surgically affixed to assist the heart in treatment of CHF. continue reading »

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Yissum inks license for cannabinoid-based nasal drug delivery technology to treat neurological conditions


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

Yissum Research Development Company, the tech transfer arm of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has signed a license agreement with Therapix Biosciences, a specialty clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on cannabinoid-based drugs, to commercialize a nasal drug delivery technology. continue reading »

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U of Arizona start-up repurposes hazardous power plant waste to produce advanced concrete


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 12th, 2017

A University of Arizona (UA) start-up is turning potentially hazardous waste from power plants into a high-quality building material. continue reading »

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Prioritizing customer service goals, Hopkins TTO promises quick response on disclosures


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 5th, 2017

When Neil Veloso, the executive director of technology transfer at Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) in Baltimore, MD, began looking for a way to improve the TTO’s approach to reviewing invention disclosures, he had multiple goals in mind. “We wanted to be responsive to the PTO’s [Patent and Trademark Office] first-to-file model, and we wanted to provide transparency and more rigor in how we are responding to our inventors,” he explains. “Thirdly, this is really a volume issue for the university. We receive almost 500 invention disclosures a year, and we have received 2,000 disclosures since 2013, and I just wanted a very disciplined, rigorous way to manage that volume.”

To address all of these concerns, Veloso came up with “2-2-2,” a program with a catchy title that is hard to forget for both inventors and technology transfer professionals. The program’s intent is quite simple: inventors who submit disclosures can expect initial contact from JHTV within two days, a scheduled meeting with JHTV personnel to discuss the innovation within two weeks, and a decision on whether or not JHTV will file for a provisional patent on the discovery within two months.

Easier said than done, right? Perhaps, but roughly one year following implementation of 2-2-2, compliance with program goals is nearing 100%, observes Laura Mitchell, the senior IP manager at JHTV. “For me personally, I can tell that the faculty are thankful that we are getting back to them, and that they know what to expect and when,” she says. “And this is something that can be reported back to faculty chairmen who ask how the program is working.”

To appreciate the achievement represented by the 2-2-2 program, one must consider where JHTV was as recently as three years ago. “You had no idea whether you would get a response, what kind of response you would get and from what kind of person. It was totally catch as catch can,” recalls Myron Weisfeldt, MD, who was the chair of the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 2001 to 2014, and now serves as university distinguished service professor and senior medical director at JHTV.

“You had to get on the phone and push people to get attention. Otherwise you just did not get attention.” Weisfeldt notes that relations between faculty innovators and JHTV are now on the mend. This is at least in part due to the improved responsiveness of technology transfer personnel, he says. “There is a feeling of confidence that people are paying attention to [faculty inventors],” he says. “If they put all the work into making a disclosure that is penetrating and high quality … they are getting an acknowledgement of receipt of the disclosure, and they are getting an appointment [with JHTV] within two weeks.”

Further, within that two-week period, the JHTV staffer in charge of the technology will do his or her homework, investigating the technology that is described, and preparing any relevant questions to discuss during the meeting with the inventor, observes Weisfeldt. “Then, within two months … [JHTV] will tell the inventor whether the university will, in fact, file a preliminary patent and develop the project or the inventor will have the right to patent the discovery outside the university.”

A detailed article on the “2-2-2” program appears in the March issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and read the full article, and gain access to the publication’s 10-year archive of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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