Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Tech transfer veterans apply their lessons learned to build Baptist Health Innovations

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 30th, 2022

A detailed article on the rapid growth and success of the research commercialization efforts at Baptist Health Innovations appears in the November issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

Baptist Health South Florida is waist-deep in the process of transforming from its roots as a community hospital to an academic medical center with the addition of translational research and innovation functions, and one the organization’s first moves to ramp up its commercialization activity was bringing on board two seasoned professionals: Mark Coticchia and Nila Bhakuni, who have long and respected careers in technology transfer. The two are now three years into building Baptist Health Innovations, using many of the lessons learned from their extensive experience in other TTOs.

Baptist Health is the largest healthcare organization in the South Florida region, with 12 hospitals, more than 26,000 employees, 4,000 physicians, 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning four counties.

Coticchia, corporate vice president for innovation, was hired right before the COVID pandemic hit. He arrived with four decades of experience in early-stage venture development, sourcing, vetting, and investing in new technologies and companies. Before Baptist, he was the first chief innovation officer at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. And before that, he was vice president of research for a decade at Case Western Reserve University, preceded by more than 20 years working at Carnegie Mellon, where he was the head of technology management and new ventures. “I’ve learned a lot along the way,” Coticchia says, “and that helped shape our approach at Baptist Health Innovations.”

Bhakuni, a mechanical engineer with an MBA, worked with Coticchia at Carnegie Mellon. Since then, she has had progressive responsibility in technology transfer at CMU and Harvard. She also led technology transfer programs at Rice University, Dartmouth, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. She reconnected with Coticchia at Baptist Health in March 2020.

The pair have installed the infrastructure for success in the form of staff, policies, and procedures, and the results are showing. They’ve already completed hundreds of transactions, including dozens of licensing deals, many broad co-development collaborations with Fortune 500 companies, and they recently consummated key university affiliation agreements. They’ve made noteworthy investments in an early-stage VC fund — supporting two of their licensees — and produced their first venture-backed spinoff company.

They’ve also invested in staff training on innovation, while quickly bringing in millions in licensing revenues and philanthropic support. And importantly, they’ve made a positive impact on Baptist Health’s organizational culture. “We’ve taken our lessons from academia and applied them to hospitals which lend themselves to application development,” said Coticchia.

Among the keys Coticchia outlined that he and Bhakuni used to achieve their goals is the created of a generous IP policy that really incentivizes the health system’s researchers and clinicians. There was no existing policy at Baptist Health when they came on board, so they had a clean slate to work from. “Having a strong IP policy was critical to our effort to develop a greater capability to enact licenses and even start companies,” Coticchia says. “It’s the cornerstone of all tech management programs.”

The policy stipulates that inventors receive a 50% share of net revenue proceeds from their IP. That’s compared to about a third of institutions offering 33%, with most others topping out at 40%, making the revenue sharing among the most generous in the country.

“I believe it’s important to be generous not only with the inventors but also the units where those inventors come from … and the institution quickly embraced it as a means to encourage innovation,” Coticchia says. “Getting the 50% incentivizes our employees to work with us. We take on the risk and share equally in the reward. That’s a pretty good deal. Because of that incentive, many folks have come out of the woodwork with their ideas.”

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