Industry Insider Archives

Industry Insider Archives

December 4, 2019
Turning Introductions Into Successful University-Industry Partnerships
By Dan Judd
University Liaison, IN-PART

Around the world, governments and funding bodies are upping the pressure on universities to increase their commercialisation efforts. Whether it’s to generate a return on investment for public funding, or to secure new funding streams for research, universities are expected now more than ever to work with industry to license intellectual property (IP), launch spin-outs, and establish long-term strategic partnerships and knowledge exchange programs. Regardless of what sort of agreement is on the table, the negotiations between academia and industry can be long and complicated, and it often falls to the technology transfer office (TTO) at the university to handle these conversations.

With all of these expectations on universities, it’s unsurprising that a common question we receive from the 230+ institutions that use IN-PART is ‘how can we establish more university-industry partnerships?’.

In order to help answer that question, we’ve spoken to two experienced technology transfer professionals – Travis Woodland, Director of Innovation & Intellectual Property at Portland State University, and Mark Saulich, Senior Commercialization Manager at Northeastern University.

From the initial introduction to new potential industry partners, through to making sure they get the most from positive and negative outcomes in a negotiation, we asked them how they successfully turn their leads into collaborators.
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October 9, 2019
Researcher Relations: This Start-up Has a Program You Should Know About

AUTM Social Media Coordinator Carrie Hutchinson sat down for an interview with Han Lim, MD, PhD, Vice President, Global Head of Partnering at Atomwise Inc., a biotechnology company in San Francisco. Han creates joint ventures and collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, startups, and universities, to pursue AI directed preclinical drug discovery. He speaks at conferences on AI and drug discovery, and reviews for scientific journals in the fields of RNA biology, synthetic biology, computational biology, and systems biology. He is also a brand-new member of AUTM!
How does your start-up work with universities?
We work with universities in many ways. The one that I am most passionate about is AIMS, which is a network of researchers from around the world advancing drug discovery optimized by great communications with researchers and tech transfer offices. When I joined Atomwise, I applied our technology to help academic researchers remove all of the pain points that I had experienced as a researcher. I talked to many researchers, and went to the AUTM Annual Meeting where I talked to probably 50 tech transfer offices to identify barriers and remove them. By addressing those issues we were able to get rapid adoption when we rolled the program out and it has been growing exponentially ever since. We expect to have 500 agreements with 256 institutions in 36 countries by the end of this year. It’s the world’s largest clinical drug discovery effort.
How does AIMS help advance research that could be commercialized?
Tech transfer offices usually have a few researchers that they know really well who are interested in commercializing their research or working with partners to advance their discoveries. Our drug discovery program researchers to tell us the target protein they’re interested in and using our AI technology we screen millions of compounds for them and then shift the results to the researchers for testing. All of this is done for free. Our agreement is fair, and enables us to partner with many researchers and institutions.
How has this process benefitted tech transfer offices?
When tech transfer offices share information about AIMS with researchers, they find that the researchers are really interested. This nurtures a connection between researchers and tech transfer offices that previously did not exist. Tech transfer offices need to have something for the researchers to invest in to build relationships and this program helps do that.
Are there similar programs?
No, and that was one of the challenges! Had there been a template, we would have gone to it first. Though there are agreements for academic institutions sharing materials they’re not the same as AIMS. Much of our efforts were in developing agreements that can be easily utilized. It’s the first agreement that takes the most time, because it includes building the relationship. Once the barriers are identified, meaningful conversations can begin. The AUTM Annual Meeting is a great forum for arranging productive, face-to-face meetings.
What are some of the challenges working in countries around the world?
The great thing about science is that it is universal. Everyone wants to do good work and scientists do a great job communicating across international boundaries. The infrastructure to support technology transfer varies in different countries, and even within the United States. The Bayh-Dole Act has fueled greater technology transfer development in the US, while tech transfer offices overseas often may not have the resources to be as well developed. Contractual elements can also be challenging. Contracts must incorporate each country’s patent and civil laws. These differences can be more complicated than those between states in the US.
What should tech transfer offices be aware of when interacting with start-ups?
There are more things in common than there are differences when talking to a large pharma partner and talking to a start-up like Atomwise. One thing is the pace. A small start-up needs to respond quickly. Many start-ups are on a clock and need to show their stakeholders success. Even six months can be a lot of time. Another consideration is that the financials can be very different. A small start-up usually doesn’t have the cash or finances of a large company, so the pay structure will need to be on the back end or deferred. Small start-ups are a lot like an academic institutions in terms of negotiations and there’s usually a single point person who will have the conversations. This is similar to tech transfer offices, where one officer is responsible for a case. They can make decisions quickly and keep things moving forward. That isn’t always the case with a large company and dealing with a team of people who bring different perspectives to the table.
Are face-to-face meetings the best way to build relationships?
Relationships are extremely important. Misunderstandings due to institutional policies can occur during negotiations and start-ups sometimes have barriers that require doing deals in a certain way. By showing a willingness to find creative solutions to barriers and demonstrating patience both sides contribute to establishing a good relationship. Meeting face-to-face in one space, such as at an AUTM meeting, can be truly beneficial.
What do you look for as indicators of success in a tech transfer office?
Good indicators of success are flexibility and good communication. Both are essential when working together to find solutions. Things can easily stall if these don’t exist. Empathy for the position of your counterpart is also helpful, especially when there is rigidity about how things need to be done.
Industry also needs to build good relationships with scientists. At a university it may be the principal investigator that’s driving the deal and at a company it may be the head of R&D. In either case, having good alignment is important. The tech transfer office should be looped in as soon as possible in order to facilitate the conversation.
Why did you join AUTM?
It’s collegial. AUTM is a collective community. This year I pivoted from being an invited speaker to wanting to be more involved in the Association. I knew that I wanted a long-term commitment to AUTM, so becoming a member made good sense!

September 11, 2019
There’s an Academic Evolution Underway in the Med Device Industry

By Chis Yochim
I had a dream, 35-year career with AstraZeneca where I nurtured relationships between pharma and academia. When I retired in 2014, one of the best pieces of advice I received was to consider how I could use my skills in an adjacent area. I agreed and started doing business development consulting with a large global medical device manufacturing, eager to grow its life-care division.

Only five years ago, it was uncommon to find medical device companies collaborating strategically with academia. A few dabbled in university spin-outs, but a strategic remit was not common. Rather, company strategies for late-stage pipeline and growth was simply to acquire small companies with newly approved or launched devices.   

Today, an evolution is underway. Increasingly, the medical device industry is finding value in the halls of academia, especially those with powerhouse engineering departments.
Companies like Baxter, Stryker and HOYA have highly experienced business development professionals actively scouting top tier institutions for technologies to license or spin-out for corporate investment.  

“People are surprised when I tell them how Baxter is looking to partner with academic institutions on early-stage development,” said Heather Walsh, Director, External Innovation at Baxter International. “We are in the midst of a significant R&D transformation, and we see academic innovation as central to our strategy.

Larger medical device companies like Edwards have become serial acquirers of academic spin-outs, such as their acquisition of Harpoon, a University of Maryland, Baltimore technology, for $100M+ future milestones. Another example is Medtronic’s acquisition of Case Western Reserve University spin-out CardioInsight.

AdvaMed, the world’s largest trade association representing manufacturers of medical devices and diagnostics, collaborated with AUTM at its 2019 Annual Meeting in Austin by hosting a Medical Device Partnering Forum. This initiative provided a structured program with an open forum for discussion. Nearly 150 tech transfer professionals participated in several hours of interaction with reps from medical device companies Baxter, Stryker, Cook Medical, Medtronic, West Pharmaceuticals, Hoya, Siemens – Healthineers, Becton Dickenson Biosciences, Roche Molecular Solutions and Boston Scientific.

Outsourcing discovery has long been popular in biopharmaceuticals and is now a hot growth area for new partnerships.     

Given the importance of these relationships between universities and medical tech companies, AdvaMed Accel developed the AdvaMed Accel University Technology Transfer Best Practices Guide to examine the history dynamics of collaboration between universities and medical tech companies.

Many tech transfer practitioners wonder why there are not more medical device makers seeking their inventions.

Alex Lyness, Manager of Research & Technology Innovation at West Pharmaceutical states, “In the biotechnology field, there are plenty of impressive academics, research endeavors and innovations universities across the globe. However, the need for a creative approach to collaboration between different stakeholders is key in successful translation of a new technology.”

As part of the Medical Device Partnering Forum at AUTM’s 2019 Annual Meeting, Bruce Gingles, of Cook Medical offered a keen historical perspective, in which the medical device industry is literally a history of physician inventorship in service to patients, with a willing manufacturer or two to help realize the vision. He pointed out that the environment for medical device companies is unique based on the premise that many of the ideas for innovative technologies emanate from practicing physicians encumbered by their own medical institutions. He calls it the “rising tide that lifts all ships” model, now threatened by policies that serve to isolate physicians from their (ability to practice their) inventions. 

These policies normally take two forms: the first prohibits clinical evaluation of pre-market (always post-FDA) prototype in the name of COI purity. The second is the failure of the inventor’s hospital to adopt/purchase the invention once it is launched. Value analysis committees and supply chain functions are increasingly adversarial to their own faculty. The physician’s primary motive to invent is to help his or her patients. If the hospital does not share that mission, everyone loses. 

Armed with this knowledge of the unique distinction between biopharma and medical device companies, Gingles said, “University tech transfer is in an excellent position to advocate for sensible, patient-friendly policies that elevate care to patients through innovation. The catalyst is the physician-inventor and the supporting ecosystem is a rich and diverse mixture of regulators, payers, investors, marketers/educators, providers, patent attorneys and manufacturers.”

Much of the innovation in life sciences originates within academic institutions.  Driving those inventions towards commercialization is an important part of mission of tech transfer professionals. With the medical device Industry adopting greater interest in external innovation, the partnership between academia and industry will surely benefit both patients and society as a whole.

August 14, 2019
Partnering Etiquette 101: Time is Precious. Make It Count.

AUTM Social Media Coordinator Carrie Hutchinson sat down for an interview with Sharon Semones who works for Eli Lilly’s Emerging Technology and External Innovation Academic Search and Evaluate team as a Strategic Advisor to partnering with academia and research institutes to foster novel business models, novel target strategic research collaborations and licensing opportunities. Sharon serves on AUTM’s Board of Directors and is also co-chair of BIO’s Technology Transfer Office Committee.
These are the opinions of the individual and not Lilly.
How can tech transfer offices best prepare for pitching to industry?
Be proactive and very specific. Before you reach out to pitch partnership with someone in industry, research the company’s website, validate mutual areas of interest, and handpick specific opportunities for discussion. For example, I work for a company that has been in diabetes for more than 100 years, so if you have a diabetes opportunity you should find out in advance what’s in my company’s pipeline and be prepared to showcase how your opportunity is different. If you need to know more than what’s on the company’s website, don’t use partnering meetings for that. Instead, use conference receptions and social events to reach out and meet people there and ask them about those kinds of things. Industry reps must show return on investment for partnering meetings and pure relationship building isn’t enough.

What should I lead with in a partnering meeting?
Tell me about the inventor that’s behind this innovation. Tell me about what their passion and expectations are and how current this research is. Also, what is your office’s strategy? Is this research a recent disclosure with known gaps you are able to share, or is it something that you have been marketing for a while? Industry sees a plethora of opportunities. Answering these questions will help me understand how to prioritize.

What are some best practices for using partnering systems?
Schedule early! I go to many partnering meetings and sometimes get hundreds of requests. I can’t do everything because my time is very limited. I prioritize based on who brings the best content. And if that content comes too late, my schedule may already be full. Typically, our schedules are full at least three weeks before a major partnering conference.

What do you want to see before a meeting?
Before I even get to the meeting, I want to see a non-confidential information package, information about the science, information about why this is better than anything else out there—basically, why I should care. And I should get this at least a week—preferably two—before the meeting so that I have time to review it and figure out what my next steps should be. Come prepared to the meeting so that when we sit down, we have a list of questions or actions ready. Your pre-reads should already have me sold on your asset.

How do we get the right people in the room?
Don’t market something that you don’t have the depth to understand. If you’re the only person coming to the meeting and you bring a list of different opportunities than the ones I’m interested in, cancel the meeting and instead connect me with the right person at your institution or have them follow up with me separately if they are attending. It demonstrates mutual respect for each other’s time.

What about confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements?
Make sure you let someone know when there needs to be a confidentiality agreement and why. Confidentiality agreements take legal resources. And my legal resources are prioritized based on deals that we’re currently trying to execute. If we can’t talk to you and have a scientific discussion until a CDA is executed and have no idea what information we would even get as a result, that opportunity will be de-prioritized.

What can I do that will make you want to meet with me again?
Be proud of who you are! Don’t try to be what you’re not. Don’t look for us to tell you what we want. What I’m interested in is learning what you’re best at and how we can work together to bring our best people together with your best people.

Bridging the Gap to Create Stronger Connections Between Industry and Academia

July 17, 2019
It’s (not just) Academic: AUTM’s Doors Are Open Wide to Industry

By Alisa Band and Aaron Adair

AUTM means business, and by developing new resources and working to grow industry membership within the Association, AUTM’s Industry Task Force, made up of industry tech scouts, is creating a more robust industry-academia marketplace within AUTM.

Our work is concentrated on two verticals: Providing insight and tools to academia-based members about how to best approach and work with industry to promote technologies, and supporting AUTM’s efforts to expand industry participation by increasing the variety of markets represented among Association members - from pharma and medical devices to agriculture and manufacturing. 

Our early efforts have focused on increasing awareness of AUTM’s “Industry-Academia Connect and Collaborate” sessions, an important networking program that provides a platform for industry to highlight specific technologies of interest via brief “pitches.” These efforts have paid dividends at AUTM’s Annual Meetings for nearly a decade. This year, more than 20 companies - Samsung Semiconductor, Stryker, Takeda, BSAF, and GlaxoSmithKline among them - made presentations. The hall was standing room only.

Recognizing that searching for partners and matching your technologies with industry’s needs is a multi-step process requiring a targeted approach and careful preparation, AUTM has produced a “Marketing to Industry Toolkit.” This resource offers suggestions -- to academia from industry – about how to familiarize yourself with companies and their submission processes, what to include in your pitch, how to make a good first impression, and tips for successful follow up. You’ll also find downloadable roadmaps for effective submissions to both pharma and non-pharma companies. 

Looking forward, the Task Force will work with AUTM on customizations to the AUTM Member Directory and to AUTM Connect. These improvements will better support the networking we’re all here to do. AUTM Connect, in particular, is a valuable online networking and partnering tool. It allows meeting attendees to create organizational and personal profiles, search for licensing and collaboration opportunities, and schedule one-on-one meetings with their counterparts during AUTM meetings. If you’re an industry scout and you’re not plugged in to AUTM’s Member Directory of dealmakers, you’re missing the boat.

AUTM recognizes there are many opportunities to bring more industries to the table. To help our organization diversify and grow, we want to hear from members of industry about the benefits of AUTM membership. If you’d like to contribute, email us

Everyday we’re working to increase industry participation in AUTM and facilitate the deal making we all need and want. After all, it’s (not just) academic. AUTM has a lot to offer both industry and academia. We’re on our way.

Alisa Band is the Chair of the AUTM Industry Task Force and Head of Tech Scouting, ICL Innovation
Aaron Adair is AUTM’s COO

June 19, 2019
Expanding Industry Outreach to Transform Ideas into Opportunities

By Stephen J. Susalka, AUTM Chief Executive Officer
Technology transfer is evolving - and so is AUTM. We are committed to increasing industry participation in the Association by maximizing partnering opportunities with our vast network of members who manage licensing and sponsored research at universities, federal labs and research institutions. Those academic research networks are, to put it bluntly, a veritable “one-stop-shop” for business development managers and tech scouts. Together we can make great things happen – from the development of lifesaving medicines to smart technologies that connect us around the globe in ways that so far we’ve only experienced at the movies.

That’s one reason why AUTM is starting this - a regular column that focuses on the needs of our industry members and affiliates in the tech transfer and knowledge exchange environments. By working together and better bridging the gap between academia and industry, we all succeed.

AUTM’s push to attract industry into its ranks isn’t new. But it’s starting to bear fruit in a meaningful way, evidenced by our steadily expanding roster. Merck, Sanofi, Takeda, BASF, Dow Chemical, Elanco Animal Health, StemCell Technologies, Stryker, Samsung and many other companies today look to AUTM for access to early-stage technologies and principal investigators in their specialty areas – we would love for your company to join them too. 

I believe, as does AUTM’s Board of Directors, that accelerating AUTM’s lab-to-marketplace pipeline is absolutely essential. In fact, industry outreach has been given a prominent role in our strategic vision for AUTM with the development of a targeted outreach program — from agribusiness and manufacturing to medical imaging, automotive and cellular technologies. We want to supercharge deal making opportunities for everyone, from attendees at our Annual and Regional meetings to those who network through our online forums.

As Betsy Merrick of the Office of Technology Commercialization at The University of Texas at Austin put it, “Hands down, the AUTM Annual Meeting is one of the best ways for those in the tech transfer ecosystem to learn, meet with those who share the same challenges, and network in a forum conducive to deal-making.” 

Our colleague, Jeff Myers of Michigan State University, has a similar point of view. “At AUTM meetings, I've found the opportunities to connect with industry to be of great value. Networking events and the partnering system are excellent resources for successful industry-university engagements.”

Engaging industry also drives traffic to the AUTM Innovation Marketplace (AIM), which hosts more than 19,000 technologies available for licensing worldwide. Those are cutting edge opportunities available and deals waiting to happen.

By providing enhanced opportunities for collaboration and expanding AUTM’s innovation ecosystem to include a diverse collection of industries — from small manufacturing companies to large multinational corporations — our Members – both from academia and industry - are making the world a better place. Together.

If you would like to share your thoughts in this space -- as a guest columnist—about getting the relationship right, get in touch