Jefferson Earns a Prominent Role in Technology Transfer
Jefferson has gained a high profile among academic institutions for its active technology transfer program. In the past 10 years, the rate of growth of our research has been higher than at most of our peer institutions, leading to a large number of new discoveries by our faculty, says Jussi J. Saukkonen, MD, who as the Vice President for Science Policy and Technology Development oversees the Universitys technology transfer program.
Purpose of Technology Transfer
Active commercialization of faculty inventions is a relatively new phenomenon in academic institutions. The purpose of technology transfer is to foster the development of diagnostic and therapeutic agents and devices by combining academic research with private business entrepreneurship. In effect, the activity transfers results of technology expertise from academic research settings to the marketplace.
The key for launching technology transfer programs in universities was the Bayh-Dole Act of 1982, which allowed the commercialization of inventions arising from federally sponsored research, Dr. Saukkonen explains. Since the vast majority of University research is supported by public funds, the enactment of this law enabled research-intensive universities to greatly enlarge their cooperation with the commercial sector.
Jefferson is fortunate to have had an early start in technology transfer in 1984, Dr. Saukkonen says. Over the last five years we have seen our program grow very rapidly. In recent surveys, Jefferson ranks very high in several categories, with such universities as Stanford, MIT and the University of California.
Moreover, the program is more than paying for itself, with revenue exceeding expenses by about three times in recent years, Dr. Saukkonen says.
Board of Trustees Role
Evidence of the growing stature of technology transfer at Jefferson is the creation of a standing committee of the Board of Trustees. The Biotechnology Committee meets quarterly to review the technology transfer activity, says Dr. Saukkonen. It is chaired by Joon S. Moon, PhD. Other Trustee members are John J. Gartland, MD, Donald E. Meads, Charles G. Kopp, Esq. and Douglas J. MacMaster Jr., Esq.
The Office of Technology Transfer is the
administrative center for the program, led by its Director, Abram Goldfinger, with Richard
Miller serving as Assistant Director.
Expanding on Dr. Saukkonens comments, Mr. Goldfinger singles out three areas where Jefferson ranks very well nationally in surveys by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM).
When you compare Jeffersons
technology transfer results in terms of the size of our research budget, we have done very
well in recent years, Mr. Goldfinger says.
This survey measures an aggregate of key activities such as revenue generated, number of startup companies and number of patent applications filed. It then ranks this aggregate in terms of the size of a universitys research budget.
Jefferson participated in forming a total of 15 startup companies over the past four years, says Mr. Goldfinger. This places us very high, together with national leaders like Stanford, MIT, CalTech and the entire University of California and SUNY systems.
In fact, out of 150 universities surveyed, we ranked in the top 10 each of the past two years of published surveys, for 1995 and 1996.
About one-half of these new companies now have products in clinical trials, and two companies have products already on the market, Mr. Goldfinger adds.
Therefore, in these instances, inventions made by Jefferson researchers are already helping patients.
The startup companies have raised more than $100 million to create resources to develop new products. With most of these new products based on Jefferson research and technology, more than $10 million of this funding has come to Jefferson, Mr. Goldfinger explains.
Jefferson Faculty Key to Success
By far the most important factor in this success has been the inventiveness of our faculty, Dr. Saukkonen emphasizes.
The program is clearly dependent on our faculty continuing to do good research and their awareness of the potential applicability of their inventions in patient care.
Mr. Goldfinger notes that a number of new biotechnology company start-up initiatives are currently being pursued based on faculty research, and that the activity continues to grow.
Both Dr. Saukkonen and Mr. Goldfinger stress that the Technology Transfer Office works very closely with other administrative units.
Grants and research contracts are administered through the Office of Scientific Affairs, directed by Gerald Litwack, PhD, with research administration managed by Thomas Wudarski. The University Counsel, Alan B. Kelly, Esq., and the University Patent Counsel, Clifford K. Weber, Esq., handle all legal matters related to technology transfer.