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Best Practices for Managing Conflicts of Interest in Faculty Start Ups

Format: On-Demand Video, DVD, or PDF Transcript
Originally presented: June 26, 2013

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As academic start-ups have taken on growing importance to universities as a tech transfer and economic development imperative, the conflicts of interest associated with faculty start-ups have also grown exponentially. These conflicts cannot be eliminated — in fact savvy TTO managers have come to realize that they are part and parcel of the start-up landscape. But they can and must be effectively managed to avoid a host of legal, financial, and other serious consequences — loss of funding, stalled technologies, damage to faculty relationships, and PR nightmares that can sully your school’s reputation.

Consider just a few scenarios that TTOs like yours are now dealing with every day:

  • A faculty inventor is “double dipping,” seeking equity as a founder and also sharing in the university’s equity stake. Who’s side is he on?
  • A faculty researcher has created a start-up with the TTO’s assistance, but it’s barely off the ground. The researcher then applied for and won an SBIR grant but appears to be using it to fund his university-based research, not the company’s. What should you do?
  • A faculty member is spending much more time on her start-up than appropriate, and is also being funded largely by federal grants. How much time is too much, and how do you monitor and control this without overstepping?
  • At least a dozen faculty members are engaged in what you feel are consulting arrangements, but they are all officially classified as “sponsored research.” What’s your school’s exposure, and how can you correct this seemingly widely accepted practice?
  • A researcher who just formed a start-up has no office space outside the lab, is using post-docs to help get the project moving, and is getting correspondence related to the start-up via the university mail and e-mail systems. What’s the right move?

Conflicts like these — and hundreds of other variations — are so numerous that TTOs can begin to feel like regulators rather than facilitators of new ventures. Yet it’s critical that tech transfer be viewed as a partner in managing these conflicts, rather than a hindrance or barrier. It’s a tough balancing act, to be sure, and there are careers, big dollars, and the university’s reputation hanging in the balance…

That’s why Technology Transfer Tactics’ Distance Learning Division has created this critical program:

Best Practices for Managing Conflicts
of Interest in Faculty Start Ups

Please join our expert presenters­ Dr. Dipanjan (DJ) Nag, CEO and President of IPShakti LLC, and David T. Wehrle, CPA, CIA, CFE, Director of the Conflict of Interest Office for the University of Pittsburgh, when they will share their best practices based on many years of experience managing COI issues.

Here are some of the key issues they’ll cover in this candid, interactive session:

  • Crafting start-up licenses with COI issues in mind
  • Start-up structure and faculty roles
  • Creating enforceable and realistic policies
  • Effectively handling issues related to consulting agreements
  • Financial relationships: equity caps, research agreements
  • Separating university and corporate roles – walking the fine line
  • The absolute “no-no’s” that should be included in your policies
  • Establishing effective two-way communication systems with faculty to address COI issues
  • Steering clear of regulatory and legal landmines
  • Dealing with non-compliant faculty without creating enemies
  • Guarding against improper use of grant funds
  • Faculty time and commitment issues
  • Use of university equipment, space, personnel, databases, and other resources
  • Examples of effective COI management models
  • Understand risk scenarios through real-life case studies
  • AND MUCH MORE!

PLUS: Participate in the live Q&A to address your most sensitive COI challenges!

Your Expert Presenters:

Dr. Dipanjan Nag, CEO and President of IPShakti LLC. Dr. Nag brings with him a wealth of academic and private sector technology transfer experience. He previously served as the Executive Director, Office of Technology Commercialization at Rutgers University and, before that, as Vice President at ICAP Ocean Tomo. Dr. Nag was the Director of Operations in the Office of Technology Development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) prior to joining Ocean Tomo. He was responsible for successfully licensing numerous technologies and several spin out companies from the University including a major licensing deal with The Monsanto Company for a biotechnology invention. He is an active member of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) and the Licensing Executive Society (LES), and serves on the AUTM Board of Directors as Vice President for Professional Development. In 2005 he received the prestigious Howard Bremer Scholarship in technology transfer. He is a frequent speaker in the U.S. and internationally addressing topics such as conflict of interest and the evolution of intellectual property markets. He teaches Intellectual Property Strategy at Rutgers University, in its Masters in Business and Science Program.

David T. Wehrle, CPA, CIA, CFE, Director of the Conflict of Interest Office for the University of Pittsburgh. David Wehrle became the founding director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Conflict of Interest (COI) Office in February 2004. He is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, and a Certified Fraud Examiner with 20 years of compliance and auditing experience. He is also a member of the University’s Conflict of Interest Committee. Before assuming his current position, he served for three years as a senior internal auditor at the University of Pittsburgh. His current responsibilities as director of the COI Office include managing COIs between employees’ outside financial interests and their university research, teaching and/or administrative responsibilities; reviewing terms of employees’ consulting contracts to ensure their terms comply with university policies; developing and implementing COI policies and procedures; and assisting in the university community’s understanding of the institution’s COI management process.

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CLP and CLE Credits Available
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CLP Credits are also available.


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