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‘Commercialization Success Partners’ drive growth for reimagined TTO

A detailed article on the transformation of the UTSW Office of Technology Development and its shift to the title ‘Commercialization Success Partners’ for licensing staff appears in the January issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

About six months ago, Brad Phelan became assistant vice president for commercialization and business development at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. It was the latest uptick in a four-year tenure at UTSW that has been punctuated by a series of moves calculated to bring about big payoffs in tech transfer — starting with a change in the name itself.

“We prefer the term ‘tech commercialization’ to ‘tech transfer,’” he says, explaining that “the phrase ‘tech transfer’ leads to “hyper focus on transactions and the details of those transactions.”

And while he acknowledges the critical importance of those transactions, “when offices like ours take a more holistic view, no longer focusing solely on the transactions, but rather including perspectives around building long-term meaningful relationships and moving things forward to benefit patients, we will undoubtedly see more positive outcomes.”

With that new perspective came a new title for UTSW staff formerly known as “licensing managers” or “technology managers,” who are now known as “Commercialization Success Partners,” or “CSPs” for short.

“The vision for the heights we can achieve was established back in 2019, and the CSP title was part of an Office for Technology Development (OTD) transformation to become more engaging and helpful,” he says.

The CSPs work internally with UTSW faculty and with external organizations to help with material transfer agreements, sponsored research agreements, reviewing invention disclosures, working with counsel, negotiating option and license agreements, and more.

“It’s tremendously rewarding, and this diverse set of responsibilities ensures we are building our next generation of leaders,” says Phelan, who adds that the CSPs’ most important responsibility is serving UTSW faculty “while building meaningful relationships internal and external to UTSW in order to advance UTSW research toward the commercial market to positively impact patients’ lives.”

The CSPs — the office currently has nine staffers with that title — work most closely with the office’s business development team, but they focus more on hammering out agreements while the business development team members focus on matchmaking faculty members with “the right investor, entrepreneur, industry partner, or expert at the right time,” Phelan explains. “Integrated into all of this is our operations and administration team, which engages and leads on topics like administration of IP filings, grant reporting compliance, agreement compliance, and more.”

What does the title change do for UTSW’s OTD in terms of outreach to faculty and partners?

“It signals our intentions, our attitude and mindset,” says Phelan. “And it gives us an opportunity to back that up with action. We talk regularly about taking action. Taking action to back up words builds trust and trust builds long-term, meaningful relationships. We have worked hard to build trust with both UTSW faculty and external partners. Anyone and any organization can talk the talk, and I’m proud to say we walk the walk behind the talk.”

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