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Inside the culture of patient-centric innovation at Mount Sinai Innovation Partners


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: August 13th, 2019

With 40 full-time employees, Mount Sinai Innovation Partners (MSIP) at the Mount Sinai Health System is one of the larger commercialization offices. Last year, the office engaged with 717 inventors and handled 128 disclosures and 209 patent filings. Behind those numbers are a bevy of programs and strategies that make MSIP an organization to watch and model.

“We have a very healthy and productive culture that is focused on what we think of as commercially relevant translational research that ultimately may be able to benefit patients within the institution,” says Erik Lium, PhD, executive vice president of MSIP. “Even if you’re pursuing very early-stage, pure discovery based-research, there’s a culture that says, ‘let’s still think about how this might benefit a patient someday.’”

Here’s a brief look at what MSIP sees as the key programs and strategies behind its success:

• Concerted effort to engage with outside expertise. “There needs to be an ongoing dialogue between individuals that understand market dynamics and what’s out there in a competitive landscape. So, we spend a fair amount of time thinking about and communicating about when [an inventor has] a technology that’s been disclosed, what would a potential licensee or investor want to see in order to evaluate that technology from the perspective of moving forward with some type of a transaction.”

• Strong internship and externship programs. MSIP has an internship program that is focused on commercialization, and also offers a legal externship program in partnership with local law schools. Cynthia Cleto, associate director of marketing and outreach, notes that MSIP also encourages the participation of externs from other institutions. “We actually expect folks from across the New York State life science ecosystem,” she says. Most institution are focused only on “developing the folks within the institution, but we’re thinking bigger,” she adds.

• Aggressive use of master collaboration agreements. MSIP has many partnerships with external entities, and its aggressive use of master agreements has been a critical factor in building those partnerships.

• A strong accelerator. Mount Sinai launched an accelerator in April 2018 called the i3 Accelerator with an initial investment of $10.5M over four years. “The accelerator [includes] a fund specifically dedicated to advancing early stage technologies to later stages through milestones-based project development plans,” said Lium. “Advisors from the commercial world help us make decisions on which assets to fund and then what the next steps should be to advance those assets.”

• Staffing, structure, and goal-setting. The MSIP team is broken into sub-teams for business development, alliance management, new ventures, contracts and licensing, intellectual property, finance and operations, marketing and outreach, and administration. Each of the sub-teams develops goals that directly support MSIP’s key strategies. “We hold group meetings to go through a process every year where we develop our goals for all of MSIP, as well as for the teams,” says Lium.

• Robust IP management system. A customized IP management system enables the MSIP staff to manage technologies and the further development of those technologies, as well as track key metrics. “A lot of technologies require additional work to advance to a point where you have the type of data that would be necessary to support a potential license, to make a decision on partnering with an institution in licensing for launching a new company, or a licensing transaction to an existing company. We’ve built a system for specifically managing all intellectual property and tracking the advancement of that intellectual property.”

MSIP’s system also incorporates tracking that internally reports metrics of office activities every week. “The metrics go out to the entire team and the metrics are used to be informative to the team – are things working the way we think they should be working, is there something that we need to keep our eyes on,” says Lium. For example, he illustrates, “are the number of agreements increasing rapidly so that we need more resources to ensure that we can support the institution?

• Transparency with researchers. MSIP is very transparent about its decisions, providing feedback and data to inventors on how they come to their conclusions about which assets to back. They provide a decision support document that goes through major topics related to the decision, such as competition and other market factors. The office also holds weekly decision meetings, to which they invite entrepreneurs, advisors, and faculty.

An article detailing Mount Sinai’s best practices and strategies appears in the July issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. For subscription information, CLICK HERE

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