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TTOs link with third parties in bid to expand licensing of research tools

While it is always a challenge to motivate faculty to disclose their innovations, many observers agree it is particularly difficult when it comes to the disclosure of research tools — mouse models, cell lines, antibodies, and so forth.

“We at UGA have perceived a lot of lack of responsiveness from our researchers to our requests for RT (research tool) disclosures, as opposed to the more expeditious filing of disclosures of more complex technologies,” notes Gennaro J. Gama, PhD, senior technology manager at the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc.

“We’re getting disclosures in, but they come with less detail,” adds Josh Mauldin, PhD, licensing manager with the University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group. “You sit with someone for hours and [then have to] say ‘Great, can you get me something in writing?’”

One of the strategies universities are employing in an attempt to meet this challenge is the establishment of partnerships with third parties, who in turn pay for interns to help in the process. For example, Gama has established a non-exclusive partnership with Kerafast, a provider of RTs for the academic and industrial community.

Kerafast, based in Boston, works with more than 150 institutions globally, offering their reagents and other research tools through an online platform. The platform allows the materials to be “quickly accessed without needing to go through the traditional Material Transfer Agreement process,” the company says. Kerafast does all the work involved in selling and delivering materials and pays royalties to its university partners based on those sales. “We therefore help providing labs save time and resources, while generating extra funding for further research. Procuring scientists can more easily discover and access unique reagents that are often unavailable elsewhere, while also funding the work of other researchers,” the company says.

“I’ve been here 15 to 16 years and always wanted to implement a robust research tools licensing program — especially antibodies,” says Gama. “It was very difficult for us to do that in the context of being a manager who already had a portfolio of technologies.” In addition, he points out, the identification of new tools is not simple. “You look into the literature, compare it with our databases — it’s very convoluted,” he says.

Gama knew the school had potentially thousands of tools, but he needed more information on them. Kerafast, as part of its onboarding process, provided interns to help dig into the school’s research tool portfolio. “Also, they’re a little different — more oriented to the creators of materials,” he explains.

In addition, Gama says, “They create pages briefly describing the research activities of the investigators that have materials with them — they’re unique that way. This gives us the opportunity not only to license but to make the materials and UGA research known beyond the academic environment.”

There is no cost to UGA, he adds. “They license the materials from us and then sell those materials,” he explains.

At the University of Iowa Research Foundation, Jane Garrity, PhD, associate director for outreach and engagement, is in the process of setting up a partnership with Ximbio, a non-profit that markets, distributes, and sublicenses reagents like antibodies, cell lines, and mouse models.

“When we started talking to them we had been looking at ways to streamline and outsource some of our material licensing,” Garrity shares. “First off, in terms of the workload for licensing associates these are typically low-value deals, but they take time to negotiate. One antibody at a time is not necessarily the most efficient [way to go].”

In addition, she continues, the partnership offers a way to improve service to inventors. “Lots of times when we get potential licensees we have to reach out to the inventor to get all the technical information on an antibody or cell line; there is a lot of negotiation and it can be a pretty big time commitment for them,” says Garrity.

Garrity says she also looked at Kerafast and other companies before choosing Ximbio. “First, they seemed to have a pretty broad range of things they worked with — like mouse models, bacteria, plasmids,” she says. “It’s not like working with one company for one material. The other thing that appealed to us is that they actually will sublicense the materials so they can work with another company that’s selling antibodies.” Some schools might prefer separate licenses, she notes, “but we like the time savings.”

A detailed article on expanding research tool licensing through third party arrangements appears in the December issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, plus hundreds of best practices and success strategies for TTOs in the publication’s online archive, CLICK HERE.

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