Denise N. Canales serves as the Assistant Vice President for Technology Development and Commercialization at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas. She is an executive with considerable experience in the academic medical center environment. She has a background in pediatric neuropsychology and cardiovascular research administration, bioinformatics and high-performance computing administration. She was a corporate compliance officer at CHI Health when it was the third largest health system in the US. Her business experience extends into the private sector where she has founded multiple companies. In addition, she had the unique experience of taking software she designed while at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas, from idea to industry, through a TTO spinout. She served as President of that company for several years, leading the creation of solutions for the healthcare industry.
What experience do you have working on or with a strategic Board of Directors?
I have been on boards, currently am on a board, and have broad experience working with boards. Including ESRUBAR Management (family entity focused on dermaceuticals) and Lakeridge Charitable Foundation (focus on serving underprivileged in Cedar Hill).
Please include a brief description of your volunteer experiences within AUTM.
My experience with AUTM events and representatives has been tremendously positive. As a seasoned person in the space of technology development but new to the inner workings of a TTO, I've greatly appreciated the work of and interactions with AUTM. I look forward to the opportunity to serve.
Why do you want to join the AUTM Board of Directors?
I have the unique experience of being a client of a TTO and now lead a TTO. I created IP when at an AMC. Going firsthand with that IP through company formation, growth, and exit is an interesting perspective to bring to a group such as the AUTM Board of Directors. I also have experience with Boards and think I can contribute positively and significantly to the important work that AUTM endeavors.
Have you served in a volunteer leadership role for other organizations? If so, please explain.
I tend to always migrate into leadership roles in the organizations in which I serve. I believe it is because I place tremendous value on serving and am willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the organization doing amazing things. It's by serving those around you that the whole unit rises and it's an honor to work with others to do things greater than one person could possibly do alone.
If elected by the Membership to the Board, would you consider serving as Chair? Please explain.
I would consider it after a couple years of service and learning from those who have preceded me.
Please share personal strengths that you believe would be valuable to the AUTM Board and/or the strategic direction of the Association.
I remain calm in challenging situations and am very focused on solutions and prevention of repeat issues. I care greatly for those with whom I work and build strong relationships and alliances. I'm good at mediation and finding paths forward when opposing sides meet impasse. I have fun, enjoy working with a good team, and am a strong strategic thinker.
What special experience do you have in driving and implementing a strategic plan?
Well, starting a software company from nothing was definitely a learning experience. Most of my work has involved coming into a situation that needs to be restructured or reinvented. I've never had a position where the work was to maintain the status quo. Having a vision, creating a plan, and implementing it with a team has always been part of the equation, or I'm not drawn to the job in the first place.
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'm grateful that the time commitment of in-person days, monthly calls, and preparation for such are now manageable with my current position. At our institution we are encouraged to participate in such broadly impactful activities. I do not have any conflicts of commitments.
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.
Our TTO uniquely sits within the Institutional Advancement arm of our institution. As such our equity, diversity, and inclusion office is a sister office to the TTO unit and we are well versed in that work. Being a compliance officer for a nationwide company also exposed me to many issues on this front. I currently and proudly live in Cedar Hill, south of Dallas which has a diversity score of 97. If not familiar with this, that's a REALLY good score. My family is also multiracial and as such issues around equity, diversity, and inclusion are near and dear to my heart.
Advocacy for the innovation ecosystem is something AUTM has promoted recently. How do you think AUTM should continue to be involved?
Advocacy is hugely important to grow more hubs of innovation around the country. ID'ing and addressing the pieces of the puzzle that are missing or weak in areas, especially those with great basic science research and high research expenditures, is important. Once ID'd we need to define an actionable plan to address the issues. Some brief thoughts: maybe multiyear apprenticeships with senior execs to train young entrepreneurially minded MDs and PhDs who do not want a traditional path with the goal that they are ready to lead new companies eventually but under the watchful mentoring of their previous apprenticeship lead. Or helping get critical numbers of wetlabs and animal facilities into the areas where innovative therapeutics are being found in order to facilitate the speed of development within THAT ecosys rather than having to move operations at critical stages of evolution. Having innovation metrics in faculty P&T review would also be something to consider and if that can't be accomplished then at the department level encouraging pay tied in small part to innovation metrics could grease the wheels for larger changes. Those are just a few ideas. Advocacy can also be regulatory or political in nature. I'm not certain of the engagement AUTM does on that front but that's a space in which it would be wise to operate. There is a lot we can do here and it's important that we continue to do it because as Federal funding for our institutions gets smaller the need for the revenue generated by IP is greater and society at large needs the innovations in the commercial space faster, whether the innovation is therapeutic, diagnostic, software, device, whatever. Society is better off when innovation thrives.
Is there anything else you would like AUTM Members to know about you before they vote?
Well when I’m not working I enjoy outdoor activities, reading, art, and architecture. My husband and I are empty-nesters with two grandkids, two goldendoodles, and I take care of a parent so I keep pretty busy. Final thoughts: It's an honor to be considered to serve in this way. Thank you for all the hard work you do every day in your TTO community, it does affect us as a whole. I'm continually amazing and impressed by the people I meet around the country who do this work. So keep at it, it's tough, but it's worth it!