From the Director: A Year of Celebration Comes to a Close

It has been a year of reflection and celebration of technology transfer at Emory. We hope you have enjoyed learning a bit more about Emory OTT as much as we have enjoyed sharing them with you. Twelve months ago I kicked off our 30th anniversary with a look back over the years. As the year comes to a close, I want to take some time to explore where I see our profession and office headed in the next decade. .

I believe the profession and business environment surrounding technology transfer will begin to calm down in the future. Since the onset of the global financial crisis the world has become infatuated with technology transfer and everything related to commercialization in hopes that it will improve their own economic prosperity. A great number of initiatives are popping up all over the country and within our respective states and communities in order to support commercialization; some of that will have a real impact and some of it will not. I think over the next ten years the proliferation of such new programs and efforts will likely slow down. Some programs that are not impactful will fade away and I think those programs that really have made an impact will develop a following and the community will support them. I firmly believe one of those efforts that will stay around and continue to have an impact will be technology transfer, patenting, and licensing.

Although we saw a drop in funding during sequestration and the years after, I am hopeful that federal funding and research support will increase and continue to increase. It is really the federal investment in research that feeds technology transfer activities and I am hopeful that we will see an upswing in the federal government’s investment in research. If that happens then I would expect activity to continue to be very strong in the technology transfer industry. Here at Emory, if the next ten years are like the last ten years then we will see another doubling of disclosures and agreements.

Todd Sherer, Exec Director Photograph

Todd Sherer, Exec Director

By that time, I expect that we will have perfected our collaborations with groups like DRIVE and ENTICe. There are a large number of commercialization-friendly efforts that are being created all across our campus and across the city. We, within the technology transfer industry, need to figure out not how to just collaborate, but how to work together in the most productive and efficient fashion so that we see a greater impact on commercialization than we would have if we each worked independently.

I choose to end this year of celebration with a story that demonstrates not only the positive impact of the high risk, high reward business we are in but also the result that can occur with perseverance over the long haul. A drug that was originally disclosed to the office in the 1990s recently received FDA approval last year. The drug candidate was first spun out from the university into a start-up company in 1998. Soon after, the start-up company partnered with a large pharmaceutical company. Eventually that large pharma partner picked-up the technology and pushed it toward the market place. However, that large pharma eventually lost interest and spun the technology out to a new start-up company. That start-up company continued to pursue the development of the drug, until it lost all its funding and went bankrupt. The technology returned to the large pharma, who then sold it through an asset purchase arrangement. The buyer was the company that ultimately got FDA approval for the drug and is selling it on the market today.

What a lot of people do not realize is that a large amount of work for this technology occurred after the initial license was signed. Many times, even more work for tech transfer offices comes after the license is signed; we do a great deal more than sit around and wait for the checks to come in. Our investigators play key roles in providing feedback to companies. We continue to work closely with companies to help move the technology forward and exercise the due diligence provisions in the license. Our office, including many staff over the years, had to work alongside our various licensees through all the many ups and downs in order for technologies to find their way to the marketplace to save lives. That’s life in technology transfer and we love what we do. We look forward to the next thirty years of helping shepherd innovations from the lab to society.