Intern: Experience by the Numbers

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  • 5 boot camp sessions

  • 3 rotations

  • 5 wonderful supervisors

  • 19 commercialization evaluation reports

  • 14 technology briefs

  • ~377,286 database searches

  • 1 year of invaluable experience in the technology transfer field

I decided to apply for the OTT internship at the end of my third year of graduate school for two reasons. First, I knew that academia wasn’t for me and wanted exposure to alternative careers and second, the daily lab slog (grad students, you know what I’m talking about) had me feeling burned out and in need of something new to channel my energy into. At the time, my PI was pursuing commercialization of an anti-flu peptide developed in our lab and I had the opportunity to tag along to a meeting with his investors and a licensing associate from OTT. I learned just how many people are involved in the pipeline of getting a technology from the lab to the shelf including licensing associates, patent lawyers, business directors, marketing specialists, and investors. I thought that the OTT internship would be a great way to challenge myself to apply my skills outside of the lab and in the “real world,” while learning about new career paths.

During my internship, I had my first exposure to several components of the technology transfer field. I learned about the work that goes into evaluating technologies for their commercialization potential, applying for patents, marketing them to biotech companies, drafting contracts, and negotiating licensing deals and financial agreements. I became comfortable reading jargon-laden technology descriptions and manuscripts from Emory PIs and distilling the heavy science down to the necessary information for commercialization. With practice, I was able to identify whether a technology was a good candidate for patenting and commercialization and which features should be emphasized for marketing purposes. I became familiar with conducting market research, searching for and reading a patent, and writing about science in an accessible way. I particularly enjoyed diving into fields outside of my own. I’m an immunologist but in the span of one month, I built a working knowledge of treatment strategies for thrombocytopenia, voltage-gated potassium channel blockers for neurological disease, and machine learning algorithms for automating arterial calcification quantification. I even had the opportunity to listen in on meetings with Emory PIs discussing their patent applications and a negotiation between an OTT licensing associate and the lawyer for a biotech company.

Perhaps the best thing about my internship experience is that the OTT members I worked with went above and beyond to make it fun and stress-free. I felt as though they were more focused on teaching and meeting my expectations than on how productive I was being. As a result, I never felt like the internship was taking time out of my own research and lab responsibilities. My internship experience served as validation that my degree would be valued even outside of academia, which helped me feel motivated in the lab and confident in the skillset I had developed. I wholeheartedly recommend this internship to anyone who is feeling unsure about what to do with their PhD or feeling discouraged by academia. There are other paths! You may find that there is a niche for you in the technology transfer field. At the very least, you will get to learn about new and exciting technology coming out of Emory and meet some great people working in Emory’s OTT.

— Karla Navarrete