Featured Innovation Writing Process: Overcoming the Challenges – Part 2

Whether is coming up with an idea or grasping the technical aspects, writing a feature for a new technology can be daunting. No one knows more about a new innovation than the inventor themself, but even with access to the inventor, there are difficulties encountered. Here are a few challenges and tips to be aware of as you help bridge the gap between the inventor and general audience in communicating new innovations (part one of this series can be found here).

Understanding the Research
The initial assignment is met with a mixture of excitement and anxiety; a new technology and the chance to interview its inventor is thrilling, but occasionally the technologies are highly complex and become somewhat difficult to understand without a PhD. A good place to start is a quick Google search on that area of research—look for references from reputable sources, including Wikipedia or YouTube, to gain a basic understanding of the science. Also look for previously published papers from the inventor as a resource. Sometimes you can even find a past interview with the inventor which can be very helpful in thinking about how to approach the piece.

Crafting the Questions
At this point, it is time to develop questions for the interview. If possible, craft questions that only the inventor can answer–avoid straightforward questions that can be answered by referring to the technology brief. Questions that are tailored to the inventor will glean the most information, result in a more enjoyable interview, and contribute to a more unique featured innovation article.

The next challenge is to establish a time to interview the inventor. Scheduling an interview can be one of the greatest challenges; the inventor is typically very involved in the process of the development of the technology and coordinating a time to meet or speak on the phone can be complicated. In a case where the inventor isn’t being responsive it can often be helpful to get assistance from the case manager.

Review the Work
After a draft is written, it is best to send it to both the case manager and inventor for approval. Do not wait for one to respond before sending the article to the other, this will only delay the process further. Incorporating the comments and suggestions of both, which often requires further editing, will result in a finished product that is ready for posting.

The solution to most setbacks encountered in the featured innovation writing process includes persistence and clear communication between all parties involved. Featured innovations showcase some of the most fascinating technologies OTT is bringing to market, and not unlike the technologies themselves, the writing process encounters setbacks along the way.

– Hannah Heitz & Aspen Ono

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Featured Innovations: Conveying the What? Who? How? And Why? – Part 1

Discoveries are made every day; some discoveries have vast implications, while others might only impact a small group. Some innovations emerge through a serendipitous accident, and others are the product of a lifetime of work. There is incredible variability in how discoveries are made, and that variability should be represented in the narrative of the scientific innovation.

The role of technology transfer is to help researchers  move their discoveries and inventions to the marketplace. What we call a “featured innovation” is an opportunity to explain a new technology in an accessible and engaging way. The audience is broad, from the general public to potential investors, lawyers, inventors, academics, and OTT professionals. These pieces should answer four main questions–What? Who? How? Why should I care?–while simultaneously including the inventor’s journey.

When writing a featured innovation piece, the first step is to do some preliminary background research on the new technology. This research will allow one to craft specific interview questions for the inventor and gain a greater understanding of the new technology and its purpose.

Next, it is usually most productive to interview the innovation’s case manager. Case managers oversee the process of moving the innovation out of the University to a commercial partner. They can often provide a simplified explanation of the new technology and its potential future. Additionally, they usually have recommendations of questions that a writer should ask the inventor.

The interview with the innovation’s inventor is the opportunity to ask more personal and unique questions about the research process. The development journey is always unique; some inventors conduct basic research in a lab, while others spend the majority of their time working with individuals in disciplines ranging from public health to mathematics.

After completing the interviews, one can begin to craft the article and provide a clear explanation of what the technology is. It is imperative to use appropriate and accurate terminology that is also accessible to individuals who may not be experts in a given field. This segment of the post also provides the writer an opportunity to narrate the inventor’s individual discovery and development process. It is important to make it clear why the innovation matters at both the individual and societal level. These details are crucial to convey potential value for investors and stakeholders alike.

The best featured innovations weave together the answers to these questions to create a captivating story that is informative, intriguing, and convincing of the importance of the innovation.

Check out our featured innovations on our website here.

– Hannah Heitz & Aspen Ono

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STTR Funding for Your Start-up

Early stage start-ups are often looking for resources to advance their company and products. Start-ups from institutions like Emory are no different. The Small Business Administration’s Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) program might provide a solution for these entrepreneurs.

The STTR program was created in 1992. All federal agencies with extramural research budgets over certain thresholds must participate in STTR and set-aside a required portion of their funds for these programs. Currently there are five agencies with STTR programs. The intent is for domestic small businesses to participate in research and development with commercialization potential.

The STTR is described as a program, “that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development arena.” The initiative is sponsored by various Federal agencies, like the National Science Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services, with the goal of forming partnerships with the private sector through the support of commercialization of research.

The STTR support fund is formed by the participating agencies which have to set aside portions of their budget for small business technology transfer research awards. After an agency accepts a small business’ proposal for funding, it enters into the three-phased program. In the first phase, the entrepreneur works with the federal agency to establish “technical merit” of the proposed research. If the research  moves into the next phase, more funds are usually awarded and commercialization usually begins. Finally, small businesses in the last phase enter the market with opportunities for some of these businesses to receive contracts from the Federal agencies that provided the STTR support.

Not every small business qualifies for STTR support, so knowing the eligibility criteria is essential before applying. Researchers at Emory will not be able to apply under the Emory name. Universities are considered to be “subcontractors” in the SBA’s dealings with a small business. For that reason, faculty entrepreneurs need to ensure their own operations fulfill the SBA’s guidelines when seeking financial support.

  1. The small business should be organized as a for profit business that is located within the United States. This requirement is out in place so that the SBA ensures that taxes and jobs generated by the business are returned back to the United States.

  2. Legally, the business must be in the form of “an individual proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, joint venture, association, trust or cooperative.” This is another criterion that ensures that the business’ management is set up properly. Foreign business entities in a joint venture must have less than 50 percent participation.

  3. STTR requires that if one or more individuals or venture capital entity is involved, no entity should own more than 50 percent of the venture. The primary controller should be the entrepreneur in charge.

  4. Finally, the company must have less than 500 employees.

These are the most important criteria for individuals seeking support under the STTR. More can be reviewed here at the SBA’s eligibility guide.

To learn more about the differences between STTR and SBIR funding refer to our blog “Helping our Faculty Navigate the World of SBIRs & STTRs” and also our blogs “SBIR Funding for Your Start-up” and “Funding Your Start-up.”

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Marketing in South Africa

During the summer of 2016, I was asked to teach a class on marketing in technology transfer in South Africa—which was both exciting and intimidating. It would be a three-day class with me as the primary instructor. There would also be two guest speakers and the final day would be dedicated to practice technology pitches. The class would be comprised of more than 80 people—primarily from technology transfer offices across South Africa and a handful of start-up companies all told. I would need to prepare a day and half of instructional material including exercises.

OTTer South AfircaI spent many a weekend on my screen porch working on course material. It all had to start with an outline and establishing a flow for the topics. There were so many subjects to cover a) tech briefs (non-confidential summaries), b) market summaries, c) the value propositions, etc. For each major theme there were definitions to be created, examples to prepare, and exercises to generate. In the end there were eight slide decks and 160 slides with speaker notes and references—holy smokes!

Once on ground, worry melted away; the participants were welcoming, lively, and eager. There were lots of questions and conversation during exercises and breaks. They were interested in hearing all about technology transfer in the States—from process, to forms, to databases.

Class South AfircaEveryone brought a technology to work on during exercises and to use for their practice technology pitch. There were so many technologies focused on energy and natural resources; not something I hear much about at Emory with our focus on healthcare. There was nary a biotech technology in the bunch, okay there were actually three. On the final day each group presented their technology in front of the group and did a wonderful job.

I flew direct from Atlanta to Johannesburg—it was a long flight! I added some additional days to my trip so I could do a little sightseeing. I took private tours with a guide of Johannesburg, Soweto, Apartheid Museum, Nelson Mandel’s house, Pilanesberg National Park (the big animals), Pretoria, African Heritage Village, and the Lion Park. As might be expected seeing the large animals was a highlight. I saw all types of animals—more than I can remember the names of—giraffe, elephant, rhino, lion, warthog, wildebeest, impala, springbok, blesbok, bushbuck, red hartebeest, and zebras. The park and country itself was quite beautiful

Overall it was a great trip and in the end I hope they learned as much from me as I did from them and the experience.

– Linda Kesselring

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2017 Annual Celebration of Technology & Innovation

Each year, the Emory University Office of Technology Transfer hosts an Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation. This event brings together Emory administration, researchers, industry and many others from our local community to celebrate the research and innovation of Emory’s faculty. Each year brings a new lineup of guest speakers and presentations.

Last year’s Celebration included two inventor presentations, including a videos and a few words from inventors of two successful Emory University technologies. Emory’s Associate General Counsel, Chris Kellner, shared a few words and became the first recipient of our OTTer Award. We also heard from former Provost and current President of Emory University, Claire E. Sterk. Most importantly, we celebrate our inventors! Emory University faculty members are awarded for, based on the previous calendar year: Deal of the Year, Startup of the Year, Innovation of the Year, and Significant Event of the Year.

Join us on Thursday, March 2 at 4pm to celebrate the work of our inventors and congratulate our 11th Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation awardees. You can visit our Annual Celebration page to find more information about past Annual Celebration’s, including award recipients, pictures and videos. You can also RSVP for this year’s Annual Celebration here.

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From the Director: Highlights from Fiscal Year 2016

2016 proved to be a very productive year for the Office of Technology Transfer. For starters, we completed our first year as a combined office with Emory’s Industry Contracting Group. Altogether we executed a total of 2,144 contracts — most of them with industry –on Emory’s behalf. While material transfer and confidentiality agreements far outnumber other contract types, it is those other contracts that take the most time and effort to negotiate.

Not only have the two offices gotten to know each other much better, but we created additional tools that have improved our ability to more effectively manage our business. Industry funding continues to be crucial component in the support of the academic research enterprise and in 2016 we saw an all-time high of $52.5M in funding from companies. Of this total, $35.5M was received in support of clinical work needed for the approval of new therapies and medical devices.

Todd Sherer, Exec Director Photograph

Todd Sherer, Exec Director

Focusing on products, Emory sub-licensee Blue Earth Diagnostics, received FDA approval for Axumin to diagnose recurrent prostate cancer. This technology was invented and disclosed in 1995 by Mark Goodman, PhD from our Department of Radiology. On a similar note, Baxalta received European approval to market Obizur for acquired hemophilia this past year (U.S. FDA approval was received in 2014). This drug was invented by Pete Lollar, MD and disclosed in 1992. Both of these stories highlight the long, risky approval process for new health care products.

Emory start-ups had a successful year as well; notably, Clearside Biomedical enrolled its first patient in their Phase 3 trial for the treatment of macular edema and Neurotrack, raised $6.5M of venture funding. Additionally in 2016, Emory start-up, NeurOp, was named one of the five most interesting start-ups at JP Morgan’s Healthcare Conference in San Francisco while Accuitis closed a $1M preferred, angel financing round. We remain hopeful that these companies can bring new products to market in the coming years.

In the new year the staff are eager to take on new challenges, in particular working to expand of our collaborations with industry. We look forward to leveraging expanded opportunities with industry and to more holistically assist and facilitate industry’s support of Emory research. Additionally, that these synergies will better enable us to help technologies find translational research support, provide added licensing opportunities for promising technology, and to support the development of new start-up companies—all with the goal of advancing our technology to the market.

You can find our full annual report on our website here.

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Holiday Season: There’s an App For That

There is always a long to-do list during this time of year —from party planning to shopping for gifts. Even with all the holiday cheer, the endless tasks can sometimes seem daunting. Luckily, there are numerous apps that can ease stress and streamline countless holiday tasks. Here at OTT, we know we need all the help we can get so we have compiled a list of the best apps to download in preparation for the holidays:

Giftfund: Are you planning on getting a joint gift? Planning a joint gift can be difficult; it is hard to choose just the right gift, follow up to make sure everyone contributes, and physically purchase the item. With the Giftfund app, all of these details are taken care of in one app. It’s very simple: first, pick a person and choose a gift or amount of money. After this, invite those who want to contribute through email or text. As soon as the funds are collected, the gift is shipped to the recipient, conveniently including a gift receipt and a full list of all the contributors.

Happy Holidays from OTT GraphicParkWhiz: Living in Atlanta already makes commuting and parking quite the challenge, but the holiday season only worsens prospects of finding a spot nearly everywhere. The ParkWhiz app solves those problems entirely. The app enables you to reserve and pay for a parking spot even before you arrive. With the address of your destination, the app locates garages and self-parking lots in the area and the available rates for your specified date and time. Simply reserve the spot, park, and continue with your holiday errands road-rage free!

Food52: For anyone who is planning a large holiday meal or party, Food52 is a must. This app has streamlined information to help plan (and problem solve) for every aspect of your event. The app includes hundreds of recipes, which include ratings and reviews, and video tutorials in case carving the turkey becomes more complicated than you anticipated. One of the greatest features of this app is the hotline feature in case disaster strikes. Not sure if the pumpkin pie is ready? Simply post a picture and description and a member of the Food52 will get back to you.

Giftster: Did you ever receive two of the same gift? Well, you won’t anymore. This app has moved the wish list online. It is a mobile gift registry that allows you to share your wish list with family and friends through email or Facebook with the click of a button. “Wishes,” or new items, can be added at any time, and purchases are recorded each time someone buys one of the items on your list, so everyone knows.

Chameleon: Have you ever arrived at the store only to find the one item you needed was sold out? This app actually tells you which aisle your product is in, how much it costs, and claims to have real-time data of each store’s stock for an item. This app makes it easy to find this season’s Tickle Me Elmo, and get the best price while doing it.

We hope these apps make your holiday season a bit merrier. Happy holidays from OTT!

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SBIR Funding for Your Start-up

Entrepreneurs and small business owners at Emory who are looking for an alternate source of income can tap into Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funds administered by the federal government. In association with some of its largest and most influential agencies, the U.S. government is looking to support innovation and growth by funding the newly seeded businesses involved in research and development.

The SBIR program was founded in 1977 when two men, Roland Tibbetts and Senator Edward Kennedy, recognized the importance of small business growth in the economy. Birthed out of the National Science Foundation, success in the first few years led to its adoption by the Small Business Administration which mandated that government agencies should set aside SBIR funding.

Each federal agency, which have research and development budgets greater than $100 million, are required to commit at least 2.8 percent of these budgets to SBIR funding. The eleven agencies that participate in the program have their own guidelines for acceptance under Congress’s established legislation. They are listed below along with links to their SBIR pages:

Similar to the STTR program, SBIR funding is given out in three phases. Phase I consists of an agency’s attempt to establish “technical merit” of the potential research or products sponsored by the small business. If technical merit is valid, the company moves into Phase II which consists of more research and development. Funds usually do not exceed $1 million in this 2-year period. In Phase III, the developed product is prepared for commercialization and, if successful, put into production.

The main difference between SBIR and STTR funding (which is explained in this blog) concerns the origin of the entrepreneur. For businesses to qualify for STTR funding, they must be associated with a university. For SBIR qualification, the PI of the project is not required to have any particular affiliation.

For Emory faculty members choosing between the two programs, the SBIR program offers certain benefits over STTR. For one, more funding is available through SBIR as federal agencies are mandated to allocate a larger portion of their budgets here. In addition, a more diverse selection of agencies have SBIR funding compared to STTR (eleven versus five). These advantages must be weighed against the commitment of a small business owner has for his venture. SBIR PIs must devote at least 51 percent of their time to the supported venture. Because STTR includes an association with a university, faculty entrepreneurs are allowed to keep their employment with the university while serving as PIs.

We realize that these programs and requirements can be confusing and we’re here to help. If you have questions about these programs or how they might assist with your Emory start-up please contact us, in particular Kevin Lei (klei [at] emory [dot] edu or 404-727-7241).

To learn more about the differences between STTR and SBIR funding refer to our blog “Helping our Faculty Navigate the World of SBIRs & STTRs” and also our blogs “STTR Funding for Your Start-up” and “Funding Your Start-up.”

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EIDD & DRIVE: A Drug Developer’s Dream Brought to Life

Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) has a mission of early stage discovery, pre-clinical drug research, and training new generations of researchers in a drug discovery environment. The primary focus is on developing small-molecule therapeutics for commercially neglected diseases and rapid response to emerging infectious disease threats. Recently EIDD joined the fight against the Zika virus by attempting to identify and develop antivirals to treat the infection caused by the virus.

The EIDD facility is an interdisciplinary space designed to promote drug discovery and development by co-locating equipment for Medicinal and Process Chemistry, Virology and Molecular Biology, Bioanalytical Chemistry, Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics including dedicated teams in each area. The facility was opened in 2012, and is currently home to both office space and fully equipped laboratories to enable research teams to focus on cutting-edge research and drug development. The facility is 12,000 sq. ft. which includes a 3,500 sq. ft. chemistry suite for medicinal chemistry, ability to support resynthesis efforts, a separate NMR room, and a hydrogenation lab.

In addition to their current work with the Zika virus, the Institute is working in a number of other areas and the following three projects illustrate this (find additional information here). The first project is focused on inhibitors of virally encoded RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP). Researchers are working to develop a new generation of ribonucleoside and ribonucleotide analogs. These analogs will be targeting diseases such as Dengue virus, Hepatitis C virus (HCV), Hanta virus, SARS, and MERS, and several types of encephalitis. The second project is focused on host-targeted, broadly acting antiviral therapeutics. The goal is developing compounds with a broadened antiviral target spectrum to move beyond traditional “one-bug one-drug” solutions. The current targets for this program are Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza A, Nipah virus, and Mumps virus. The third project is focused on optimization of non-nucleoside inhibitors of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) for the measles virus. The efficacy and resistance profiles of this compound are being investigated for measles and canine distemper.

Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory, LLC, otherwise known as DRIVE, is the “industrial partner” of EIDD. DRIVE is a not-for-profit company separate from, but wholly owned by Emory, and the first initiative under Emory Innovations, Inc a 501(c)(3) corporation created to be the home for innovative new enterprises. This type of entity is highly unique in the realm of academic research and is designed to more effectively move drugs through lead optimization and pre-clinical testing and into proof-of-concept clinical trials. The transition from academic research and discovery to clinical trials is often referred to as “The Valley of Death.” It’s the goal of DRIVE to address this deficit and to move academic drug discovery further down the path. DRIVE is currently focused on five RNA based viruses – flaviviradae, myxoviridae, coronaviridae, bunyaviridae, and togaviridae.

EIDD & DRIVE are Emory’s answer to bringing together multidisciplinary capabilities to advance cutting-edge drug discovery and development in the preclinical stage.

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Funding Your Start-up

Every start-up founder hopes one day for their project/technology to succeed, reach the market, and quite often improve patients’ lives. Funding is just one of the critical hurdles in the early stages. The following list will explain just a few of the many sources of investment.Money Graphic

  • Bootstrapping: Sometimes the best source of funding for a small business can be its entrepreneur(s). Bootstrap financing is starting a business with minimal capital mostly provided by a person or group of people from the start-up team. This often includes dipping into savings, retirement, personal loans (including home equity), or accessing credit cards. This is the most common type of financing in small business. Given the costs involved with a pharmaceutical or medical device company this approach can be challenging, but for a software company can be a successful approach.

  • Friends and Family: Sometimes the best way to gain access to funding is through the people who are closest to you. Tapping your family and friends to invest in your start-up can strain relationships and is only advisable if they fully understand the risks involved with your start-up. Forbes suggests that a loan from friends and family is sort of like a “grant with no strings attached,” but a more formal agreement is advisable and will allow a smooth, transparent investment that is beneficial to all.

  • Crowdfunding: The rise of the internet has provided a new type of funding known as crowdfunding. Websites, like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, have altered finance by connecting individual or small groups of investors who may not have had access to opportunities the ability to contribute small sums of capital to start-ups looking for financing. This form of funding saw a boost in mid-May 2016 after the JOBS Act lifted some restrictions which are explained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority here.

  • Angel Investors: If you’ve ever watched the show Shark Tank, then you’ve been introduced to the idea of angel investors already. Angel investors are individuals or groups of individuals looking to invest in small businesses with pooled resources and capital. These groups typically have different perspectives and objectives, so finding the right fit can be the most important part of finding access to funds. One of the additional benefits to angel investors can also be gaining access to expertise to help advance your start-up.

  • Bank Loans: Taking on debt is, perhaps, the most traditional form of funding, and for some entrepreneurs, is the best form. Because a bank (or other financial entity) has a large base of capital, they can provide liquidity for a start-up looking to grow. Given the high risk and failure rate of start-ups this type of funding can be challenging to secure. Find an institution that understands start-ups is a good place to start and build a relationship. Another source of information and advice is your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office (SBA loan information can be found here).
  • Grants: If an entrepreneur can find the right program this can be a good source of start-up funding. One of the major benefits of grant funding is that, unlike the above-listed sources of funding, grants are non-repayable and non-dilutive. One of the most famous agencies that distribute grant money is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Since 1958, DARPA has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to start-ups working on a project in which the military had become interested. Your business might not align with DARPA’s interests, but there are plenty of other grants from the government and even large private companies operating in your industry. The SBA is also a good source of grant information. If a start-up is women or minority owned company there are many grant programs specifically aimed to assist.

To learn more about the differences between STTR and SBIR funding refer to our blog “Helping our Faculty Navigate the World of SBIRs & STTRs” and also our blogs “STTR Funding for Your Start-up” and “SBIR Funding for Your Start-up.”

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