2021 Candidate Form

Claiborne Christian, PhD

Director of Business Development
Tulane University 

Candidate Biography

As Director of Business Development in the Tulane University Research Business Development Office, Clay assists in establishing and facilitating collaborations involving research at Tulane and industry, venture capital, and other external partners. His office engages with the offices of Advancement, Technology Transfer, Corporate and Foundation Relations, and others with helping to showcase Tulane’s research capabilities. During the COVID-19 crisis, the RBD office and Clay have been taken on additional roles, including Communications, curating a newsletter with synthesis and summary of the latest COVID-19 research and news. These and other accomplishments led to Clay being awarded Tulane’s most prestigious faculty/staff award in the Summer of 2020: The President’s Award for Excellence.

Clay received his BA in Classics from Hendrix College and his PhD in Biomedical Sciences from Tulane University School of Medicine. Following the completion of his PhD, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He is an expert in Molecular Biology, with special interests in Oncology and Infectious Disease. Clay is active in both AUTM and NACRO and has presented and moderated at multiple professional conferences. In his capacity as a consultant, Clay has also evaluated over 170 early-stage university projects/technologies for commercialization potential.

Candidate Q&A

What experience do you have working on or with a strategic Board of Directors?

I have worked with the AUTM Board as part of the EDI Committee, served on NACRO's Board of Directors, and worked with and as a board member for several LGBTQ+ non-profits over the last decade.

Please include a brief description of your volunteer experiences within AUTM.

I have been an active member of AUTM since joining. I am a founding member of AUTM’s EDI Committee, which reports directly to the board and provides strategic advice on EDI issues. My most significant contribution included the design and implementation of the AUTM EDI survey. Along with my subcommittee, I analyzed this data and provided strategic recommendations and benchmarking context around our membership demographics. I have also served on the Jobs Task Analysis Task Force, assessing what duties and areas of expertise constitute the knowledgebase of the professionals that make up AUTM. I was also involved in the planning and execution (as well as being a moderator and speaker) at AUTM Corporate Engagement Intensive course in New Orleans in 2019. Lastly, I am a current member of the Industry Partnering Forum planning committee for the 2022 AUTM Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

Why do you want to join the AUTM Board of Directors?

Technology Transfer as a field, AUTM, and its members are experiencing a wave of changes in how university research is turned into something in the real world. More and more is expected of us from our corporate partners and from University administrators, with what it means to be in “Tech Transfer” changing and expanding at a rapid pace. I think that I am able to provide a valuable point of view to the organization given my hard science background and data-focused approach to issues, status as a younger (but still very active) professional in the field, and my position outside of a more traditional technology transfer operation. I want to be in a position where I can give back and help guide the organization and the profession successfully into the new world of tech transfer; a world whose change has only been accelerated over the last two years.

Have you served in a volunteer leadership role for other organizations? If so, please explain.

I was elected to NACRO’s board of directors for the 2020-2021 year, and also served on the board for a local LGBTQ+ non-profit.

If elected by the Membership to the Board, would you consider serving as Chair? Please explain.

I think that with additional experience I would gain on the Board, I would be a good eventual candidate for Board Chair. My understanding of roles like this and my approach to broad leadership are characterized by listening and elevating those around me. Especially as AUTM and the profession continue to diversify (in terms of scope and demographics), it is important for leadership to be able to bring together diverse voices and help contextualize and summarize those voices into a coherent plan. I think my approach to problems and my experiences on other boards and with my volunteerism with AUTM would help me be that type of leader.

Please share personal strengths that you believe would be valuable to the AUTM Board and/or the strategic direction of the Association?

I am extremely adept at communicating with very diverse constituencies. In my role at Tulane, I often serve as the intermediary for complex scientific concepts between multiple arms of the university, ranging from front-line officers to university leadership. While I am an extremely data-driven person, I am able to quickly zoom out and contextualize data and see the larger picture. I am also very straightforward, unafraid to ask hard questions or deliver tough assessments if that is where the data takes me. Sometimes those assessments are best softened and delivered while leveraging my other areas of expertise: wine and my knowledge of New Orleans’s excellent food scene.

What special experience do you have in driving and implementing a strategic plan?

Most of my experience with strategic planning has been in a support role, leveraging my subject matter expertise to help with specific pieces or as a key individual in the beginning, planning stages where a data-centric approach is most critical. One of the reasons I am so excited about the possibility of being on the AUTM board is that it is a chance to learn about the later, implementation stages of strategic planning – while lending my existing skill set to the full team of Directors.

How do terms of  the position (both responsibilities and time commitment) fit with your other responsibilities? Will you have any conflicts of commitment between your full-time position and your volunteer time on the AUTM Board?

I have always been a very efficient manager of my own time, able to balance a demanding schedule and prioritize accordingly. My colleagues and supervisor are enthusiastically supportive of my running for the board. I have also had multiple conversations with former board members about the specifics of the commitment and am confident I can handle it.

AUTM is committed to addressing issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion both on the Board and on behalf of our Members. Briefly describe how your experiences can contribute to the Association’s growth in this area.

Personally, I have a decade’s worth of experience as an out and proud gay man in the hard/advanced sciences. I have had to navigate being an underrepresented population in my field, while at the same time using my privilege as a cis white male to help elevate those other, perhaps more underrepresented voices (especially the voices of graduate students, trainees, and young faculty from underrepresented minorities). Additionally, I am an active member of the EDI committee, where I was able to leverage my data-driven approach to problems with my passion for diversity and inclusion (with a specific desire to address the pipeline problem for diverse talent and leadership) in AUTM’s inaugural membership EDI survey. I hope to put both types of these assets, my own lived experiences and my more formal systematic role, at the disposal of the Board and AUTM.

Is there anything else you would like AUTM Members to know about you before they vote?

I am a reliable, focused individual who approaches leadership roles as much as an opportunity to elevate others as an opportunity to lend my own expertise and viewpoints.