Inside OTM: Raising Awareness of OTM Services(4-11)
Welcome to the new Office of Technology Management blog. We started this blog so we could bring you the inside scoop on industry trends, OTM activities, and more. This isn't a news site, it's a personal, inside look at the inner workings of technology transfer. You'll hear from OTM professionals about their experiences. This is your one stop for everything business and technology related with a little bit of a twist. Enjoy
Raising Awareness of OTM Services
“In-reach” helps build relationships with faculty
Last week, Technology Manager Emily Wee participated in a faculty luncheon for the Dept. of Crop Sciences to speak on behalf of the OTM and the services we provide to faculty and grad students.
Inside our offices, these luncheons are known as “in-reach” opportunities. Sort of the opposite of outreach, which is focused on outside companies and individuals, in-reach is focused on meeting with faculty and grad students from within the University of Illinois. Whether or not these faculty or grad students are currently interested in OTM’s services, it’s our belief that if by attending in-reach events we build relationships that will one day turn into business.
Emily isn’t the only technology manager to attend in-reach events either, all of OTM’s tech managers meet with faculty to raise awareness of OTM’s services. Some events include small talks, coffee hours, and luncheons - a popular choice, since nobody can turn down free food.
At the luncheon Emily attended earlier last week, she finally met face to face with a few faculty members she helped through email. The relationship between OTM and those faculty members grew, thanks in a large part to in-reach.
If you’re interested in having an OTM Tech Manager meet with your department, email Nicole Nair. We’ll be happy to meet with you!
University of Illinois partners with Osage University Partners
$100 million raised for University start-ups
Osage University Partners has raised a $100 million venture fund and partnered with a lineup of some of the country's top research universities, including the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, Caltech, Columbia, and UC Berkeley among others, as part of an endeavor to help universities realize the financial potential inherent in the preemptive rights that are included in most licenses to University start-up companies.
In the past, when University start-ups explored extra rounds of funding, the University’s preemptive rights in the technology almost always went unused since they were rarely in the position to afford more investment money.
Osage saw potential in this virtually untapped market of unused preemptive rights, and decided to act on the behalf of Universities and their existing equity in the start-ups.
The relationship-driven partnership between the University of Illinois and Osage is as simple as building in a paragraph into new licenses, granting Osage the ability to invest in start-ups on behalf of the University if it sees a possibility for a positive investment.
While Osage has a broad list of technologies it plans to review and potentially invest in, the venture group has already backed several life science firms. Osage University Partners has already had one life sciences hit on its hands. The venture group was one of the investors of Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, based on a new Alzheimer's diagnostic technology which was snapped up by Eli Lilly last November for $300 million upfront and the promise of $500 million more in milestones
The University of Illinois is pleased to be working with Osage to support the research and economic development mission of the University.
Orchards Look to be More Cost Efficient and Sustainable
OTM: On the Move
Technology Manager, Emily Wee, recently attended the International Fruit Tree Association’s 54th Annual Conference in Washington state. What she saw was innovation among orchards to make their growing and harvesting processes more cost efficient and sustainable. The main method for doing both is training the fruit trees to grow along trellises. This allows for more fruit to grow per branch as well as makes harvesting quicker and easier. There are various forms the trees could take and growers are currently debating which one is the most efficient. Emily is excited to see where these innovations will take orchards in the future as they look to stay ahead in both cost-efficiency and sustainability.
OTM Commercialization Analyst Intern Program
A look at a couple of our current interns
Our OTM Commercialization Analyst Intern program is one of the most highly regarded in the university tech transfer community, which says a lot about our Commercialization Analyst (CA) Interns. Every year we have a new class of CA Interns, and every year we are continually impressed with their work. In this blog post I hope to spotlight a couple of our current interns, and get a feel for why they chose to intern with OTM and what they’re getting out their experiences.
A bit about our process for finding new CA interns:
Each February, OTM starts the recruitment process for finding new CA interns. Current interns and OTM staff hold several info sessions on campus to find students who would be interested. They look for law and business students with strong technical ability, and graduate students in applicable scientific fields. Once the new class of CA interns is found, they begin work in May, starting with two weeks of intensive training.
Current CA interns:
Kyle Beckemeyer came to the University of Illinois to study law, after graduating from the University of Missouri where he studied Computer Engineering during his undergrad. He is interested in the practice of intellectual property law, which is why became interested in the OTM intern program.
“I saw Steve [Wille] give a presentation about the program at the Law school,” Kyle said. “I decided to apply when I realized how much exposure I might be able to get with intellectual property coming out of research at the university.”
After applying to the program and being accepted, Kyle started working right away. It was actually during that summer where he was immersed in the program and took on a few small side projects in the office. Those smaller, more personal projects were beneficial to learning as much as he could about the technology transfer world.
After successfully interning for the OTM for almost a year now, Kyle says he’s seen cool new technologies, and is overall pleased with his internship.
“I’ve seen a couple really cool things over the year,” he said.
And as for words of advice for the next class of interns, Kyle has a few words:
“You get out of it what you put into it,” he said. “You should extract what you can out the experience. You’ll definitely learn a lot.”
Michael Hodnett is another OTM intern who’s studying law at the University of Illinois. Unlike many other law students though, Michael is also getting an MBA at the University of Illinois College of Business at the same time.
According to Michael, his two degrees are proving to be a huge help with his CA intern duties.
“The work I’m doing at the OTM is some of the most practical legal and business work you could have,” he said.
Michael came to Illinois after studying at Brigham Young University for his undergrad and working for a few years for a software company in Utah.
This is actually his second year interning with the OTM, which must mean he enjoys the place.
“It’s awfully fun,” Michael said. “On the whole, it’s a great place to work.”
What’s his favorite part though? It would have to be working with the inventors, he said. Also working on small, ad hoc projects on the side. Overall, his experience over the last two years has definitely prepared him for a wide variety of jobs in the law and business world.
We'll Miss You Jonathan- Technology Manager, Jonathan Ho, to go to Sigma-Aldrich
Technology Manager, Jonathan Ho, will be moving to Milwaukee at the end of the month to start a new position with Sigma-Aldrich. Jonathan spent just over two years with us here at the OTM working on licensing new technologies in the biology and genetic engineering fields.
Jonathan feels his time at the OTM has helped prepare him for his new position as a Technology Transfer Manager at Sigma-Aldrich. This position will differ from his time as a Technology Manager with the OTM because instead of selling new technologies, Jonathan will be the one scouting new technologies. He is grateful for the time he spent with the University and feels it will aid him as he scouts out new technologies for Sigma-Aldrich. “Having worked at the University, I know where to look to scout for new technologies.”
Regarding his new job title, Jonathan says he is looking forward to negotiating licenses with tech managers on the other end. This is the difference between doing the convincing and having the ability to choose what new technologies you license.
As for his time spent with the OTM, Jonathan says it was only made that much more enjoyable by the great team he had the chance to work with over the past two years.
Although the OTM will miss Jonathan and we wish him all the best at Sigma-Aldrich, we will be looking to fill his position soon. Please keep your eyes out for any information about where to submit a resume.
Spotlight on Campus Organizations That Encourage Entrepreneurship
This is the first in a blog series showcasing groups on campus that encourage entrepreneurship, and what each organization offers to students and faculty who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs.
The first organization we’ll showcase in this series is iVentures 10. For the past few summers, iVentures10 has funded computer science students with great ideas for software or a web based start-up company. The program puts those computer science students through a start-up “boot camp,” with hopes of helping the students develop their ideas into a working product.
For ten weeks during the summer, iVentures10 helps these teams of computer science students (usually 2-4 students per team) through every aspect of the start-up process. Since the program is funded by IllinoisVENTURES, a seed and early-stage technology venture capital firm on campus, teams are given up to a $25,000 budget to assist with their ideas.
Being affiliated with IllinoisVENTURES definitely comes with perks, too. Teams in the program will benefit from the mentoring of IllinoisVENTURES. Their guidance ranges from how to set up servers to how to think about business models. Over the course of the 10 weeks they invite various entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to give talks to the entire group.
A business plan is not required to apply, since iVentures10 strictly focuses on building ideas into products. For more information on applying visit their application website.
Also, for a list of successful companies that started in iVentures10, click here.
Congratulations! John Rogers Elected to the National Academy of Engineering
John A. Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Chair in Engineering and Professor in the University of Illinois Department of Materials Science and Engineering is one of 68 new members elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The NAE was founded in 1964 as an independent, nonprofit institution to help eminent members of the technology and engineering fields share their expertise and insights. Election to the NAE is peer- nominated and one of the highest professional honors bestowed upon an engineer over his career. Rogers will be joining an elite network of engineering professionals consisting of 2,290 U.S. members and 202 foreign associates.
Dr. Rogers is well known for his novel electronic and optoelectronic devices and systems, which include his flexible and stretchable electronics innovations. In particular, Rogers’ stretchable electronics have a wide array of applications, especially in many medical fields. Because his work solves unfulfilled needs that are not addressable by conventional electronics, Roger’s technologies are easy to license and build start-ups around. In a matter of six years at the University of Illinois, Dr. Rogers has created a Conformal Electronics Platform that has enabled and advanced a whole new category of electronics leading to two start-ups, Semprius, Inc. and MC10, Inc. as well as making a major contribution to a third start-up in the LED field, Cooledge Lighting, Inc.
Regarding Rogers’ election to the NAE, OTM Senior Technology Manager, Mark Kaczor, says “Being admitted to the NAE is a reward that took decades to earn and is richly deserved not only for the pure novelty of Dr. Rogers’ innovation but also for his incredibly long hours and hard work. Yet for John, this isn’t even work, it is his passion and his avocation.”
OTM's Volunteer Interns Exploring Career Options
We’ll soon be writing an in-depth post about our Commercialization Analyst interns, and getting their thoughts on being involved with OTM’s nationally renowned internship program, but today we have another group of interns we’d like to write about: OTM’s volunteer interns.
Unlike the yearly class of Commercialization Analyst (CA) interns, OTM’s volunteer interns are, well, voluntary. We don’t recruit them, they come to us usually looking to see if a career in tech transfer would be a good fit for them.
Since we started taking in voluntary interns, they have almost always been grad or PhD students majoring in either science or engineering, as opposed to our CA interns who are mostly business and law grads. Upon graduation, the next step for science and engineering PhD students is usually to start a career in research. Our volunteer intern program is perfect for those PhD students who’d like to learn about other options besides research, and that’s exactly what attracted both Jen Rice and Lu Bai, OTM’s current voluntary interns.
Jen Rice is a 5th year Ph.D. student in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Illinois. She found out about our volunteer internship program from the Biotechnology career center and also a friend who volunteers at OTM with a patent agent.
She, like almost all of our other volunteer interns, doesn’t quite know if a career in research is the best field for her.
“I was interested in finding out about other career options I could get into with my PhD,” she said. “I was happy to find out about this OTM internship.”
Jen just started interning before Christmas break, and she’s currently researching different companies to find potential partnerships for them and our OTM inventors.
She has so far written up three marketing sheets (documents outlining a specific technology and its major advancements) that got sent to companies to market OTM technologies. Jen's enjoying her internship so far, and is looking forward to gaining more knowledge about the tech transfer field.
“So far it’s really great,” she said.
Lu Bai is in her 5th year in the biology PhD program here at the University of Illinois. She was interested in a career in Intellectual Property Law, so she looked on OTM’s website to see if we had any available internships for that sort of thing – and luckily we did. She contacted Jonathan Ho, who helped her to quickly start her internship.
Her current day to day duties usually consist of reading papers and patent disclosures from OTM’s clients (usually faculty at the U of I). After thoroughly researching a certain topic, she’ll prepare some slides to discuss her findings with OTM tech managers.
The nature of her internship work utilizes the scientific knowledge and skill sets that she has gained in grad school, she said.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to exercise those skills and learn to use them in a different setting, for example the technology transfer field, which should help open up some new possibilities for my future career.”
A career in the tech transfer field is still something Lu is considering.
“I’m enjoying this internship,” she said. “I think it’s good to keep an open mind.”
Jonathan Ho Travels to Miami… For a Drug Delivery Conference
“OTM: On the Move”
Jonathan Ho, an OTM Technology Manager with a focus on life sciences, traveled to Miami last week for the 15th Drug Delivery Partnership conference.
Jonathan attended the conference for a couple of reasons – one of which was relationship building.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign doesn’t have as large a number of researchers in the medical field as other Universities do, however that doesn’t mean our researchers aren’t making groundbreaking advancements in the field. On the contrary, a few technologies invented by one of our own University of Illinois faculty members were shared with three potential partners at last week’s conference. That’s why it’s important for our tech managers to go to these niche conferences and build relationships with others in the field.
There were about 400 attendees at the conference, which made it easier to build those relationships, as opposed to other conferences where attendance numbers are in the thousands.
Another reason Jonathan attended the conference was to learn about what the drug delivery companies are working on. He now hopes to match our University’s available drug delivery technologies with interested companies to quickly get our technologies on the market.
Another interesting bit of knowledge Jonathan gained from the conference is that it’s getting much more difficult to get new drugs approved by the FDA, so more and more companies are reformulating current drugs on the market for new uses.
Photonics West 2011: Moving Up in Microscopy
U of I on its way to becoming center of Microscopy innovation
If there’s one thing that Steve Wille took from the Photonics West conference last week, it’s that the University of Illinois is well on its way to becoming a leader in the field of microscopy.
“Our inventors [in the field of microscopy] have been inventing more in the recent past,” Steve said. “And I feel they really belong in the top-tier of inventors.”
The four University of Illinois professors who attended the show were well known throughout the conference, and talked to many representatives throughout the week. Roughly 15 of UI's grad students were also there, and some even gave small presentations of their technologies.
The reason Steve attended the conference was to share the University’s innovations in the health technology fields on behalf of OTM, and also to hopefully find interested companies or other Universities to partner with.
“It was almost overwhelming,” he said, but he did make connections with almost a dozen small companies and a half dozen Universities.
Unlike many other large trade shows, there wasn’t a handful of large companies and hundreds of small ones. Photonics West had essentially no large companies, rather it was full of smaller niche companies, which made it easier to talk with others since not everyone was so caught up in getting noticed by the big companies.
Steve had a great time in San Francisco last week, however I wouldn’t be surprised if he wished the conference was this week so he wouldn’t have had to be in the Midwest during Snowpocalypse 2011.
Annual Event Celebrates Tech Innovation, Creativity and Leadership
“Innovation Celebration” awards local individuals and organizations
Even though our blog is titled “Inside OTM”, there will be times when we write a post that’s actually concerning someone or something “outside” of OTM, but nevertheless we feel is important enough to share. Today’s short blog on Innovation Celebration is one of those posts.
Innovation Celebration is an annual award ceremony that aims to recognize individuals, organizations and corporations who have utilized innovation, creativity and leadership for the benefit of our community. We here at OTM believe that Innovation Celebration is a great event since it brings together all of the area’s tech centers into one place to celebrate our community’s achievements.
There are eight categories that are awarded in Innovation Celebration: Social Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneur Advocacy, Economic Development Impact, Technology Transfer Award (accomplishment), Innovation Discovery, Entrepreneurial Excellence in Management, Longevity through Innovation and Student Start Up.
More information on the individual categories could be found on Innovation Celebration’s website. You’ll also find a nomination form to nominate a person or organization you think deserves to be awarded. Nominations are open to the public and will be accepted through February 8, 2011.
The awards ceremony will be held on February 24, 2011 from 5:30 - 7:00 in the Gateway Building atrium at the University of Illinois Research Park (southwest corner of First & St. Mary's, across from the iHotel).
Steve Wille visits San Francisco for annual Photonics West conference
OTM: On the Move
If you follow our Twitter account (@ILinnovations) you’ll be seeing a few tweets about something called “Photonics West” this week. In the first ever edition of our “OTM: On the Move” series, we’ll take a look why our own Steve Wille traveled all the way to San Francisco to attend this conference.
Photonics West is the world's largest international conference that encompasses industrial and medical applications of optics, lasers, and photonics. Steve Wille will be one of the roughly 18,000 attendees at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from January 22 to 27.
More than 4,100 papers will be on display at the conference covering the industrial and medical fields. Attendees will also see various technical sessions, industry panels and two exhibitions. The main reason attendees visit the conference every year is to see the advances in several medical fields, including medical therapeutics and diagnostics, gas, fiber and semiconductors, diode lasers, micro/nanofabrication, MEMs, optoelectronic materials and devices, displays, communications, and more.
Steve traveled to the conference to network with companies and investors who are interested in the medical technologies from the above list that are being researched here at the University of Illinois. He’ll be attending panels and visiting booths on behalf of OTM and our technologies. He’s also snapping some pics throughout his visit, and a few just may show up on this blog or on our Twitter feed (@ILinnovations), so be on the lookout!
Want to see a list of medical imaging technologies that have previously come through OTM? Click here.
OTM utilizes new tool on the web
LinkedIn hosts new OTM advisory group
The OTM team is always on the lookout for new ideas to connect inventors to interested partners, and we think we may have found an effective one.
A few months ago, Steve Wille, Lisa Dhar and Nathan Hoffmann created a group on LinkedIn to join together inventors, experts and interested partners in hopes of creating a virtual marketplace where market and technology ideas could be shared. Having all of the non-confidential information shared amongst these parties will be helpful to everyone involved, and will hopefully spur innovation in the respective fields. This particular LinkedIn group is currently focused on individuals who are studying and working in the fields of spectroscopy and microscopy.
The main reason for singling out spectroscopy and microscopy in this new advisory group is that many inventions currently being worked on in these two fields are very pertinent in today’s market and have commercial use. Another reason, though, is that the idea of this LinkedIn group is brand new. By starting small we’re able to more effectively learn about the users’ needs, so when it comes time to expand to different fields, new ideas may be taken into consideration.
The idea of this group on LinkedIn is low risk and has potential for high reward, since the group members are all highly trained individuals in their field. The OTM hopes this idea will take off, and other small groups like this one can be created to share information in other fields besides just spectroscopy and microscopy.
Inventors were invited to join the group a few months ago, and will being sending invites to industry professionals starting in February. If you’re involved in the fields of either spectroscopy or microscopy and would like to be considered for inclusion into this LinkedIn group, email Steve Wille at email@example.com.
The OTM welcomes a new addition to its family
A new Communications Intern joins the marketing team
Hello readers, I’m Marty Malone, a new communications intern here at the OTM. That means many of the blog posts you read in the future will most likely be written by me.
I’m joining the OTM marketing team, and will be working closely with Assistant Director of Marketing & Senior Technology Manager Steve Wille, Marketing Communications Specialist Nicole Nair, the other communications intern Amelia Salter and graphic designer Jonathan Pearce.
As a communications intern, my job will be to write about new advancements that are coming through the OTM in hopes to share the new findings and ideas with the public. I’ll also be letting you, the reader, take a look inside the office through staff profiles and interviews. In addition to these blog posts, I’ll also be writing news articles, press releases and many (hopefully) engaging tweets on our official OTM Twitter account (@ILinnovations).
A bit about me: I’m a sophomore at the University of Illinois majoring in Journalism and minoring in both Communication and Political Science. Some of my previous experience includes working for The Daily Illini as both a reporter and a member of its web staff, and also after interning for the SouthtownStar newspaper in Tinley Park over the summer for its web staff and video department.
After all of my work is done with my full time class load and this new internship, I like to watch TV, hang out with friends, and keep up with national news (mostly political and science/tech.)
I’m looking forward to interning here this semester and hope I can keep readers interested with my blog posts and tweets!
University of Illinois Provides Proof of Concept Funding and Support to Researchers
Adding value, reducing risk
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has just completed the first round of awards in a new proof of concept initiative. Three researchers were chosen to receive funding and support that will bring their high potential technologies closer to commercial readiness.
Initiated by the Office of Technology Management, each award will be used by the recipients to reach critical developmental milestones that will bridge the gap between research and commercialization. In addition to funding, the researchers receive consulting time with the University’s Entrepreneurs- in-Residence and an industry landscape report from the Office of Technology Management.
“This new program helps fill a critical need in our system of technology transfer; it helps our earliest stage technologies advance to the point where their value is immediately apparent to potential investors or licensees” says Avijit Ghosh, University of Illinois Vice President for Technology and Economic Development. “While the University already has an extensive system of resources for technology transfer, this initiative seeks to provide financial support to accelerate the translation of high potential technologies towards commercialization.”
Nine projects were submitted for consideration to the Office of Technology Management. A panel of experts reviewed the proposals and selected three for funding on the basis of having clear market potential, targeted milestones, and well-defined deliverables, all resulting in the greatest potential to secure a license to industry or establish an investor-backed start-up company.
The funding recipients and projects are:
- Dr. Martin Burke: Widely applicable platform to make small molecules for pharmaceuticals, natural products, and polymers
- Dr. Jianjun Cheng: Nanoconjugate drug delivery platform that can potentially allow the clinical use of therapeutic agents that are otherwise inapplicable because of their severe toxicities or side effects
- Dr. Paul Kenis: Simple and robust microfluidic system for synthesis of radiopharmaceutical imaging agents
According to Dr. Burke “This funding makes it possible to further develop the technology in a way that would not be possible with traditional research funding.” Dr. Kenis adds: “This program helps us to refine the potential commercialization opportunities of our technology, and thereby it helps us identify what tasks still need to be completed to further establish the technology’s promise.”
A second round of projects is expected to be funded sometime in 2011.
OTM Communications intern, Amelia Salter, is spending 2 weeks in India with a UIUC student organization called EWOB which stands for Entrepreneurs Without Borders (similar to Doctors Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders). The group is traveling to Bangalore, India which is the current IT Hub of the country housing centers for both Microsoft Research and Infosys. The purpose of the trip is to explore social entrepreneurship and microfinance projects within India. Below are her observations.
Embrace: Redefining the Problem
On the third day of our trip, we met with Rahul Panicker, one of the founders of Embrace, a startup making low cost infant warmers. 20,000,000 low-birth-weight and premature babies are born every year and 450 of them die every hour. Much of this happens in developing countries where they do not have access to the proper medical facilities for treating these babies. Rahul pointed out the importance of redefining the problem. In the case of premature and low-birth-weight babies, the problem is not that incubators don’t exist or even that they are not available; it’s that with the immense size of India and road quality, people can not get to hospitals with incubators in time.
Embrace’s solution was to not only create a low-cost incubator but an incubator which can also be used for transporting the babies to and from the hospital. To do so, the founders of Embrace employed what Rahul refers to as the “quick and dirty prototype.” This means that instead of taking all the time to fully complete a prototype, they will take an idea out into the field. This involved traveling to the villages and speaking first hand with the mothers as well as watching how they interacted with the infant warmers. This led to the use of a warmer which can be heated using boiled water instead of electricity, which is a luxury that many of the mothers in developed countries have never known. The warmer also contains a temperature gauge that doesn’t use numbers or words but instead colors and a smile face to mark when the warmer is heated enough (for mothers who are not literate).
Combining innovation with ingenuity and a heavy dosage of resourcefulness, Embrace is a perfect example of a startup that not only identified a problem but redefined it.
Akshaya Patra: Innovation Changing One Life at a Time (1-10-11)
World-renowned NGO Akshaya Patra has been working since 2000 towards alleviating the cycle of poverty in India. Because there headquarters are in Bangalore, we were lucky enough to go see their kitchens in action. When we arrived at about 7 am, the first trucks loaded with food had already begun leaving to deliver hot meals to reach children in remote villages by lunch time. Throughout India, Akshaya Patra provides hot school lunches to 1.2 million underprivileged children every day. For many of these children, it is the only meal they will receive for the day and acts as their main incentive to go to school. This is good because although they may only be attending school for the hot meal, they are still receiving the benefits of an education and in India; one literate family member is enough to bring a family of five out of poverty. The kitchen we visited is the main kitchen for Bangalore and feeds over 150,000 children every day. For this reason, efficiency is the main thing they strive for to ensure that each student has a delicious hot meal. The meals are prepared in huge vats which use steam to cook and can prepare enough rice to feed 1,000 children in about 15 minutes. The meals which often consist of traditional Southern Indian cuisine of Sambar (similar to a vegetable stew) and rice are also tested daily by a nutritionist to make sure each wave of meals is nutritionally sound before it reaches the students. One thing that really surprised me was the level of customization going into preparing these meals which differ significantly due to the varying tastes in each region. Akshaya Patra even passes out satisfaction questionnaires at the schools to make sure the children like the food being delivered to them. Once a problem is identified, they try to make adjustments by the next delivery. Their thought process behind this is that even hungry children are picky and the incentive to go to school may not be as great if they don’t really like the food. When Akshaya Patra first started back in 2000, they served 1500 students in Bangalore. In just over 10 years, they have expanded to every state in India as well as aided in a government mandate that every government or government-aided primary school must provide children with at least one cooked meal a day.
Highlights from 2010: The Year in Review (1-3-11)
Happy New Year! We wish you all the best for a successful and happy 2011. As we begin this new year, it seems a good time to look back on some of our highlights from 2010 with a quick round-up of events.
We were pleased to sign licenses with partners including:
- Corn Board Manufacturing Inc. licensed a corn-based structural composite technology developed by Dr. Nancy Sottos, Dr. Scott White and Dr. Thomas Mackin. CornBoard is a version of wood composite board that uses corn husks and stalks (commonly referred to as corn stover) remaining in the field after corn is harvested. Some applications of CornBoard include outer sheathing for homes, furniture, and sporting equipment. (news release)
- Gelest Inc. will offer their customers organosilicon compounds designed for cross-coupling reactions. The technology was developed by Professor Scott Denmark and can be used in a broad range of carbon-carbon bond forming reactions. Under the terms of the deal, Gelest will offer a label license with sales of the compounds granting purchasers a royalty-free license to the technology developed by Professor Denmark. (news release)
- Sigma-Aldrich plans to utilize an innovative technology developed by Professor Martin Burke of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to produce surrogates for boronic acids previously not easily accessible. The availability of these surrogates is expected to greatly enhance the syntheses of many chemically important small molecules such as pharmaceuticals and natural products. (news release)
- Memsic, Inc. licensed an integrated sensor board that enables an inexpensive means for continuous and reliable Structural Health Monitoring (SHM). This board is designed, developed, and tested by the NSF-sponsored Illinois Structural Health Monitoring Project (ISHMP. (news release)
- Hoowaki, LLC will utilize innovative technology developed in the laboratory of Dr. William P. King to manufacture microstructures that alter the surface properties of various materials. (news release)
- Immuven will develop modified T cell receptor proteins for the purpose of treating cancer and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). ImmuVenwas co-founded by Dr. David Kranz of the University of Illinois and Dr. Patrick Schlievert of the University of Minnesota. (news release)
- Nuvixa: will utilize audio-video conferencing software developed by Dr. Sanjay Patel and collaborators Dr. Minh Do, Dr. Wen-Mei Hwu, Quang Nguyen and Dennis Lin to add an element of “presence” to audio-visual conferencing software that separates it from other programs. (video )
We were equally pleased to see several UI start-ups achieve important milestones and successes. Here are just a few:
- The ShareThis web tool is accessed by more than 400 million users across 850,000 websites,
- Gary Eden and Sung-Jin Park’s microplasma lighting company, Eden Park, has graduated from EnterpriseWorks to a pilot production facility. They also won a Red Herring 100 North America Award.
- Phil Krein and Patrick Chapman’s solar panels can be installed on rooftops with a simple plug-&-power functionality. Their start-up, SolarBridge, has started production on micro-converters.
- Reebok announced an R&D collaboration with MC10, a start-up co-founded by UIUC faculty member John Rogers, which makes stretchable electronics. Reebok is very excited for what they see as a “marriage of expertise” in both performance athletics and leading edge electronics. This collaboration will allow Reebok to utilize MC10’s revolutionary conformal electronics platform to transform wearable electronics into a whole new class of comfort.
- John Rogers is also a founder of Semprius, which focuses on solar panels for large-scale electrical generation. Semprius and Siemens Industry announced a joint development agreement in 2010. (release)
- ANDalyze expanded sales to China and Australia. This start-up produces products to test for heavy metal contaminants, based on Yi Lu’s catalytic DNA technology.
- At the very beginning of 2011, Diagnostics Photonics won $10,000 as runner-up in the statewide "Innovate Illinois" competition. Stephen Boppart and Scott Carney founded Diagnostic Photonics to develop a tool that can be used during surgery to determine whether cells in the margin of a breast cancer tumor resection are cancerous. (article)
- And the University of Illinois Research Park was named one of the top 10 technology incubators that are changing the world by Forbes Magazine!(article)
And in marketing & in-reach…
- Senior Technology Manager Dave Washburn gave a series of talks across campus on software licensing and a new section of our website is devoted to software developers. (video)
- We started a twitter feed: http://twitter.com/ILinnovations and a blog: http://otm.illinois.edu/inside-otm
- We created a slidecast celebrating University innovations and featuring a soundtrack composed by students from the College of Music (available on our homepage: www.otm.illinois.edu and our Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/UIUCOTM)
- We held in-reach events across campus
Illinois: Innovation at Home (12-17-10)
While searching for a piece of music to go along with a new slidecast about Illinois innovations over the past century, OTM came up with an inspired idea. After dealing with copyright issues and unable to find a piece that properly represented Illinois innovations, OTM felt the best way to find the right piece would be to commission it from Illinois itself. OTM commercialization intern, David Dremann, approached doctoral student, Pin Hsin Lin to complete this task. Lin is currently working towards receiving her Doctorate in Composition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a native of Taiwan and received her Bachelor of Music in Composition from Roosevelt University and her Masters of Music in Composition at the Peabody Institute of the John Hopkins University. Lin’s compositions have been performed in several performance centers throughout the country. Dremann described the piece he was looking for as inventive, intelligent, and modern with some classical influences.
Lin composed the piece along with one of her professors from Julliard. It is performed by 4 musicians (all UIUC Music Arts Doctoral students) each on piano, cello, violin, and clarinet. Ya-Wen Wang was the pianist for this composition. Wang is a native of Taiwan and has won several awards in both solo and concert piano competitions. The cellist for this piece was Ting-Yin Lin, who is also a native of Taiwan. Lin received her Masters of Cello Performance from The New School in New York City and has received First Prize in the Nation Chamber Music Competition several times with her chamber group. Cristian Neacsu, a native of Romania started studying the violin at the age of seven and is currently working towards his Doctor of Musical Arts in Violin Performance and Literature degree at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The clarinetist for this piece was Useon Choi. While pursuing his Doctorate degree here at UIUC, Choi has performed at Carnegie Hall New York as co-principal clarinet and in Orchestra Hall Chicago as principal clarinet chair with the University of Illinois Wind Symphony.
From start to finish, the commission of this piece entitled “I See the Sunshine” took about 2 months. The interesting thing about this process is that OTM was able to bring in another element of Illinois’ innovation. The slidecast highlights the innovations coming out of the science and technology departments but the music is an innovation directly from the fine arts department. OTM feels this piece fits perfectly with 100 years of Innovation and is proud to be able to help some of Illinois’ up and coming musicians and composers.
Reebok and MC10 Join Forces to Produce a New Class of Intelligent Athletic Apparel (12-16-10)
Reebok has announced an R&D collaboration with MC10, a start-up co-founded by UIUC faculty member John Rogers, which makes stretchable electronics. Reebok is very excited for what they see as a “marriage of expertise” in both performance athletics and leading edge electronics. This collaboration will allow Reebok to utilize MC10’s revolutionary conformal electronics platform to transform wearable electronics into a whole new class of comfort. Unlike much of the electronics-equipped apparel currently on the market, MC10’s conformal electronics do not require a plastic casing meaning they can be placed inside the thinnest of material or even directly onto the skin. This can be done because MC10’s stretchable electronics are thin strips of silicon printed onto stretchable substrates which can conform to most surfaces including clothing and skin. The potential for this kind of conformal electronics technology on athletic apparel may range from monitoring an athlete’s heart and nervous system to tracking the strain on their joints.
Capitalizing on Teamwork and Efficiency (12-13-10)
Much of this blog highlights the notable work coming out of OTM. However, none of this would be possible without the hard work of the dedicated OTM staff so this is the first post in a series about the people who keep OTM up and running. Business Manager, Todd Creason has been with OTM for about 7 years and Account Technician, June Luna has been with OTM for 5 years. Together, these two form the team responsible for 300 invoices and 5,000 transactions each year. To keep from becoming overwhelmed, the two have formed a system built around efficiency. Each has their own expertise when it comes to divvying up the work. June keeps up on travel and how it changes and evolves while Todd’s specialization is in purchasing and foreign trade initiatives. In addition to handling all the financials for the Champaign-Urbana campus OTM, June and Todd also handle some of the financials for the University of Illinois-Chicago. 80 percent of what they do is dealing with the long process of distributing funds. Each technology has a different and often complicated set of terms for who will receive a share of the proceeds of revenue derived from licensed technology and how much. What some people may not know is in addition to distributing funds Todd and June are also responsible for securing royalty payments, licensing fees, and other funds from licensees. This is not always an easy task and according to Todd requires “a great deal of tact.” Todd stresses the importance of giving licensees all the information they need to pay their bill in as pleasant a manner as possible. It is also crucial to communicate with the Tech Manager who secured the license to see when to step in or take a step back throughout this process. June reminds that although it is sometimes difficult to secure past due funds, she has been able to build a rapport with many of the licensees which makes this process much less stressful. Todd and June enjoy that their department is on the smaller side as they can keep things more personal. Over time, their end goal is to recover even more revenue on behalf of the University.
BIO and AUTM File Joint Brief Defending Patentability of DNA-Based Inventions (11-30-10)
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) filed an amicus brief on Friday, October 29th in response to a lawsuit brought forth by the ACLU regarding the patentability of isolated DNA molecules. An amicus brief is one filed in court by someone who has strong views on a matter but is not directly related to the case under consideration. In this suit, BIO and AUTM were not in any way involved in the original lawsuit but have a strong investment in the outcome of this case. The original lawsuit brought on by the ACLU was on the behalf of a number of plaintiffs, including the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), against Myriad Genetics, the US Patent and Genetic Office. The plaintiffs in AMP wanted patents currently held by Myriad related to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes to be invalidated. These genes have been found to be potentially helpful in indentifying mutations correlated with a predisposition for breast and ovarian cancer.
The court ruled that although it is obvious that DNA molecules are “composition[s] of matter” they viewed them as the “purification of a product of nature.” With this thought process, DNA molecules are then only patentable if they possess “markedly different characteristics” from naturally-occurring DNA. Although the DNA code outside the cell has been stripped down, it still functions the same as it does inside the cell leading the judge on this case to rule that there is no difference between the two.
In their brief, BIO and AUTM make three main arguments for why isolated DNA molecules are patentable. For one, they state that in contrast to what the court ruled, isolated DNA molecules are not a “purified” form of a naturally occurring substance but instead are new “man-made” chemical compositions that cannot be found to naturally occur in nature. To go along with this, they also argue that even if these isolated DNA molecules could be treated as a naturally occurring substance, the process requires such a level of human intervention that it changes the DNA into a new, distinctive form with different properties making it something patentable under law. Lastly, AUTM and BIO argue the court was lead to believe a falsity through the comparison of a DNA sequence to information. This is a commonly used metaphor when describing DNA in layman’s terms but is not necessarily accurate as DNA is a chemical compound, not “mere information.” For example, if one were to rip a page out of a book and remove half the words to say something new, is it still the same page? The district court thinks yes while Myriad is arguing no. With such a complicated case, there are supporters on each side using valid arguments to defend their stance.
AUTM and BIO state that the implications of such a court ruling may have devastating effects on innovation. BIO President and CEO, Jim Greenwood, is concerned about the implications such a ruling could have on the small firms which depend primarily on private investment to fund their foundational research. AUTM President, Ashley Stevens, warns that this ruling could have incredibly damaging effects on the transfer of university research to the marketplace. "Patentability of isolated DNA molecules is critical to the translation of university research discoveries for the public good. Without this, many promising discoveries would not make their way from the university research lab and into the hands of companies for development of products which improve the public health.” According to OTM patent coordinator, Brad Edwards, UIUC currently has several pending patents claiming isolated genes, many involving plant genes, which may ultimately be affected by the outcome of this case.
The Coulter Foundation Translational Research Awards (11-18-10)
The pre-application period for the Coulter Foundation Translational Research Awards begins December 1, 2010. The Coulter Foundation’s mission is to continue the lifelong work of its benefactor, Wallace H. Coulter. Coulter was an engineer and inventor who believed that the best way for innovation to benefit humanity was to ensure it made the transition from the lab to commercialization. The Coulter Foundation identifies “translational” research as research which has practical or clinical applications as well as an end product which will benefit humans. Senior Technology Manager, Lisa Dhar, believes these awards offer a great opportunity for a nontraditional type of funding to link basic research and commercialization. In addition to faculty in both the Bio-engineering and the Chemical and Biomedical Molecular Departments, any faculty member performing research in related fields is encouraged to apply. Building on efforts to aid translational research, OTM is prepared to help support any applicants in the proposal process. Technology Manager, Jonathan Ho, feels that this kind of funding is valuable as it highlights how basic research can lead to beneficial end products.
To be eligible, applicants must be a full-time tenured or tenure-track member with a primary, secondary, or affiliated appointment in a Biomedical Engineering/ Bioengineering Department. Inventors must be prepared to present their ideas for basic research as well as their end goal of how this research will benefit humanity. If the Coulter Foundation feels this proposal fits their criteria of “translational” research, they are prepared to award what is needed to fund the research as they have not designated a specific dollar amount for this program. The pre-application period closes December 30, 2010 and applicants will be notified by January 31, 2011 to apply for Phase I which opens February 2.
Negotiating to Win (11-16-10)
Congratulations to OTM Commercialization intern, David Dremman, who recently won a competition held by the American Bar Association. The 2010 ABA Negotiation Competition Internal Round consisted of 64 teams each composed of 2 people. Each team would act as either a hypothetical employer or employee working to negotiate an employment contract including payment, creative control, intellectual property, and dispute resolution. The teams were given 5 hours to prepare for a 45 minute round being judged by 3 judges. The first round was held on October 4th and narrowed the teams from 64 to 6. The second and final round was held on October 12th. David and his partner, Angela Hsieh, acted as the team representing their hypothetical client, employer FunTimes Video Games. David says the key to negotiating good employment contracts is to not be a shark. It is critical to remember to accomplish the client’s goals while maintaining likability and a good working relationship. David is in his second year at the UIUC Law School planning for a career in intellectual property law.
Marketing Disruptive Technologies (11-12-10)
Technology Manager, Emily Wee, organized a talk from Associate Professor of the UIUC College of Business, Dr. Raj Echambadi, on October 29th. Dr. Echambadi has many research interests and among his expertise is Strategic Innovation. For this reason, Emily felt that it would be useful to have him come and talk to the OTM staff about the different strategies for marketing sustaining and disruptive technologies. Sustaining technologies differ from disruptive ones in that they already have an established market that can be approached. However, simply having an established marketplace does not make sustaining technologies easier to license because companies often want new technologies which will give them an edge over the competition or create a whole new market. Dr. Echambadi spoke on the importance of finding a “niche” market for disruptive technologies as they are in the infant stage and the best way to approach the marketplace may not yet be known. This is the case with many of the technologies that are waiting in each tech manager’s queue because many of the innovations coming out of UIUC are very new and potentially disruptive. Senior Technology Manager, Mark Kaczor, has been with OTM for 10 years and believes Dr. Echambadi’s ideas could be applied to creating tools to learn how to better analyze new technologies. These tools would first evaluate the technology to see if it is disruptive or sustaining and whether it was worth pursuing. The second step of analysis would involve seeing how best to market these new technologies and would involve seeing what the current technology has in common with previous technologies that were either successful or unsuccessful in securing licenses.
Earlier this fall, Technology Manager, Nate Hoffmann, attended two very different water-related conferences from opposite ends of the commercialization spectrum. In September, he attended the Water Innovation Alliance Conference in Chicago. The meeting brought together entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers from around the industry to discuss the growing trends and challenges they foresee in the coming years. The water business is different from many other technology industries in that it is a highly fractured web of government municipalities and private partners, which can be an impediment to new technologies looking to take hold in the marketplace. In the minds of many consumers, water is still considered a mostly free and limitless resource so there is a high bar for new technologies to make a significant impact early on. For example, safer approaches to commercialization such as introducing incremental advances in membrane based technologies may ultimately have less chance of succeeding than more disruptive technologies which may carry a higher adoption risk but bear the promise of fundamental innovations in the way water is treated. Back in Champaign, Nate also attended the Illinois Water Conference in October. This meeting represented a gathering of watershed scientists, including participants from Illinois State Geological Survey, the Illinois Water Survey, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and researchers from the University of Illinois among others. Discussion focused on the latest water issues effecting Illinois from across the state. Both conferences stressed the need for changing the way industries, governments and consumers alike think about water problems and predicted that the way these challenges are met will become the seminal question of this century.
MRUN: Networking in the Great Lakes Region (11-08-10)
Senior Technology Manager, Dave Washburn, attended a one day Seminar held by Midwestern Research University Network (MRUN) on October 14. The seminar was titled “Catalyzing Angel Technology Investment” and led by Co-founder and current President of MRUN, Allen Dines. It was the third MRUN meeting aimed at catalyzing technology transfer and investment and met jointly with Midwest co-Investment Network (MIN), which is an alliance composed of 16 angel groups across 3 Midwest states. The goal of MIN is to have members work together to syndicate deals and share diligence resources. The meeting also acted as a sanctioned regional meeting for another group, the Angel Capital Association. Currently, 33% of the nations academic and medical R&D spending goes towards Great Lakes region universities and medical centers as well as 40% of the capital supplied to the venture capital industry coming from public and private retirement funds within the Great Lakes region. These numbers can be contrasted with the 14% companies in the region receive on VC investment. MRUN believes the key to improving access to capital in the Midwest is to focus on stimulating networking between inventors, investors, and tech transfer professionals in the Midwest. Often when looking to invest in a new technology, investors may approach inventors directly or go through tech transfer offices. Other times, the inventor approaches the investor to market a new technology. MRUN gives all three a place to go to network. There is also a focus on tech transfer offices, which Dave was excited to see as most tech transfer managers may have 15-20 potential startups in their queue.
An Invaluable Partnering (11-05-10)
With the challenges facing commercialization of University innovations today, the licensing of a new technology is something that everyone can have a hand in. Inventors are the primary face and voice of their technology as they know it better than anyone. There are often potential licensees in their audience or reading their journal articles. Occasionally, the inventor is approached directly by potential licensees. After being contacted by a potential licensee, inventors sometimes share contact information with OTM with the expectation that OTM can take it from there and get a license for the invention. Sometimes the first contractual agreement with these potential licensees will be a sponsored research agreement, not a license. When this occurs, OTM will work to coordinate the introduction of the potential licensee to OSPRA, who will administer sponsored research. Sponsored research may lead to a license, which is one possible scenario for University innovations. OTM is there to make sure that the invention has every chance possible to succeed on the marketplace but the inventor’s input is critical along every step of the way. The inventor creates the technology and the technology transfer professional helps guide it out into the marketplace, but the inventor’s input is still key throughout the entire licensing process. For information about what the technology can and cannot do (i.e. technical questions and prototypes) the inventor should be available to the potential licensee. Many of our innovators have been extremely instrumental in finding licenses for their technology. OTM appreciates this invaluable partnering.
Seeing the Bigger Picture (10-27-10)
Senior Technology Manager, Lisa Dhar, sat on a panel for LES Annual Meeting in Chicago on September 27. The panel addressed the challenges of licensing early-stage technology. Because these products are in the early stages, they often cannot go directly into the marketplace which can make licensing tricky. Lisa pointed out the importance of the “bigger picture” surrounding the relationship between Universities and licensees. The negotiating terms reflect the potential for more deals and the possibility of sponsored research. Lisa also enjoyed hearing from another University member on the panel, Nancy Sullivan of the University of Illinois Chicago, who spoke about the repurposing of an FDA approved drug originally prescribed for sleep apnea for other uses. Because the drug had already been approved by the FDA, this was a much simpler process than trying to bring a new drug out onto the marketplace. Lisa commented on the fact that although deals are starting to pick up in this economic climate, it is always a challenge to license a new product and flexibility is important.
Last month, Corn Board Manufacturing Inc and the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign entered into a license agreement in which CBMI will be able to utilize a new technology known as CornBoard. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a new technology developed by Dr. Nancy Sottos, Dr. Scott White, and Dr. Thomas Mackin that will, in layman’s terms, turn the leftover husks and stalks from harvested corn (also known as corn stover) into a substitute for wood. Yes, this is literally turning one man’s trash into another man’s treasure.
Spring boarding off the potential of CornBoard is start-up company Corn Board Manufacturing Inc, who will be putting this new technology to good use. CBMI plans to produce CornBoard in varying densities to ensure that it will be versatile. It will be able to replace wood in a variety of different applications which will reduce the demand on a much less renewable resource. From a mere 2 acres of corn stover, CBMI can produce enough CornBoard to build an entire house complete with two stories, roof decking, flooring, and outer wall sheathing. The USDA estimates that approximately 580,000,000,000 lbs. (no that is not a typo with three extra 0’s) of corn stover are available after each harvest season. If CornBoard was used to replace all the outer sheathing on the average 2,000 sq. foot home, it would be enough to build over 45 million homes each year. Other than providing an alternative to wood, CornBoard also reduces the amount of CO2 released into the air from decomposing corn stock because it is sealed into the CornBoard during processing. Think that’s impressive? Well the sky’s the limit with this technology. In addition to materials both in and around the house, keep your eye out for sports equipment, under the brand StalkIt, which includes top of the line skateboards and surfboards which are already being endorsed by professionals in both areas. CBMI is even taking StalkIt a step further by creating the “Fallen Soldier Longboard” from which a portion of the profits will be donated to the Snowball Express Charity, a charity that provides support to those families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. CBMI seems to follow the belief that it is important to give back and see the “bigger picture” surrounding the effects of your actions. CEO of CBMI, Lane Segerstrom, points out the importance of making a positive contribution to the world around you. “Our goal is to have one good practice lead to another good practice, and the domino effect of good practices will ultimately make a great difference.” With this attitude, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we someday have entire cities built from CornBoard.
For more information about CornBoard, go to http://cornboardmanufacturinginc.com
Deals, Deals, and The Highest Bidder (10-22-10)
Director of the Office of Technology Management, Lesley Millar, sat on a panel at the LES Annual Meeting in Chicago from September 26- 29. The focus of the meeting was for industry insiders to swap ideas about deal-making within the current economic climate. Lesley commented on the lengthy process it takes to receive a patent for a new technology. With an examination timescale of about 3 years and around 1.2 million patent applications pending (50% of which have yet to be read), things aren’t necessarily looking too hopeful. Enter Auction house, Ocean Tomo, who spoke about the current prices for the patents they are auctioning off which ranged from about 50- 150k for high tech US patents. 80- 90% of the value is in US patents with a 10k discount for US application only. The current auction patent record for a University is 11 patents selling for a total of $7.7 million for exclusive license and the rights to sublicense and assignment. Lesley cautioned that although this is an option for Universities, she sees it as somewhat of a “last resort.” Universities want to make sure that every new technology has the opportunity to grow and flourish while industries may try to buy up patents with the intention to never create the product. Auction houses can’t guarantee that these new technologies won’t end up in the hands of the latter. Unfortunately in an economy that is less than favorable at the moment, many industries are opting to license to the highest available bidder.
Lesley also sat on a panel at the 2010 IEEE Great Lakes Technology Symposium in Ann Arbor from September 16-17. The panel focused mostly on integration between Universities and technology in the context of how the University of Michigan Ann Arbor has been going about this. The long-term goal of the Symposium is to help transition the economies of the Midwest and Southeast Michigan from manufacturing to more knowledge-based. Lesley heard presentations from NASA and DARPA who are planning programs for funding that are focusing on University faculty. What this means for UIUC is that we may see an increase in the presence of these companies wanting to approach faculty directly looking for new technologies.
Goats Make More Than Just Feta (10-20-10)
Technology Manager, Jonathan Ho, attended the Livestock Biotech Summit in Sioux Falls, SD from September 28-30 where he learned that the world of genetically engineered biology is always full of the unexpected. Jonathan was especially impressed with a technology developed by a faculty member from the University of Wyoming whereby a goat was genetically engineered to make a lot more than just feta. The goat was genetically modified to produce a protein that would secrete into its milk and could then be harvested to make- wait, are you ready for this? The answer is SILK. Now I know what you are thinking, “Isn’t that what we have silk worms for?” The silk produced by these goats is much stronger than that of a silk worm and can be harvested in much larger quantities. Its strength can be compared to that of Kevlar, which is what the military currently uses for defense gear and parachutes. Jonathan stresses how important it is to attend these industry events to learn what the marketplace is currently seeking and how Illinois technology will be applicable to fill these needs.
Lemonade Stands and Gameshows (10-18-10)
Senior Technology Manager, Mark Kaczor, sat on a panel at the NanoBusiness Conference in Chicago on September 27. Mark commented on the initiative that nanobusiness will be taking over the next 10 years which will be a shift towards focusing on manufacturing products at the nanoscale. Federal agencies now not only want a proposal for good science but how that science will be for the greater public good. Although basic research is still crucial, there is a push to focus on development to ensure that new technologies benefit the public. Mark commented on conference speaker, Neil Kane, CEO of Advanced Diamond technologies, who talked about the need for startup companies to continue receiving federal funding even into the development stage. It is a strain for these startup companies to continually spend money ensuring that the product qualifies for customer use when they are not yet profiting from the technology. Think of when you were a kid selling lemonade out of your driveway. Most likely your parents supplied you with enough lemons and sugar to get started but then expected you to buy more supplies from the profits made off the lemonade you already sold. Now imagine you were expected to keep trying different recipes for the first week without being able to sell any lemonade. By the end of the week, you would probably be out of supplies, broke, and wondering why you opened this lemonade stand instead of just going to the playground. Now this is an incredibly over-simplified situation but it can be related to what today’s technology start-up companies are going through. “The real challenge is not transferring the technology out of the laboratory- it’s transferring the technology into the marketplace”- Neil Kane.
Assistant Director, Steve Wille, also attended the LES Annual Meeting. The theme of the meeting was deal making in the current economic climate and global initiatives. Steve commented on what he heard about current deal making within the pharmaceutical industry. Today’s pharmaceutical licensing can more aptly be compared to an episode of Deal or No Deal. Inventors with drugs in the preclinical or first phase of development have no idea how well their product will do on the market and often have two choices. The first option is to play it safe and license the product for a hopefully generous one time sum. You protect yourself from all the risks but forfeit the rewards if the product takes off. The second option allows you to keep all the profits to yourself. Hold on before you pick door 2 though because you can’t have the increased reward without the increased risk. If your drug is a success, you will likely make more money than you know what to do with but you must also prepare for the wheel to land on “bankruptcy” if it flops on the market. The terms in pharmaceutical deals are often so complex that it is not so simple to choose between door one and door two. Steve suggests that inventors extend the life of a license by including patents for products not yet invented.