One of the driving forces behind the city’s need for an innovation park is the concept known as technology transfer, or tech-transfer for short. It is the process whereby research in the academic setting is moved or transferred into the open market for private enterprise. With UC Davis increasing its research and technology development, its technology transfer needs a place to take root in the form of startups and other high-tech business.
In the Spring 2015 UC Davis Medicine, a publication of the UC Davis School of Medicine, they explain how UC Davis propels technology transfer as it ignites innovation to improve health.
“Although solving the world’s most daunting health challenges is a formidable task, the UC Davis School of Medicine rises to the challenge by ensuring its medical breakthroughs move from the confines of academia to the community at large,” they write.
“Our school is a catalyst for medical innovation,” explains Lars Berglund, senior associate dean for Research at the medical school. “We have the brain power, state-of-the-art hospital and physician systems, creative business leaders, welcoming communities and a history of collaboration among industry, academia and government that nurtures new ideas.”
As the article explains, “The key process for taking these discoveries toward the marketplace is technology transfer. The UC Davis Office of Research, which works with faculty at the medical school and elsewhere on campus, now offers commercial licensing of more than 650 technologies, encompassing biotechnology, veterinary and human medicine, computer science, engineering, optics, agriculture, transportation and other fields.”
As the article explains, the Technology Management and Corporate Relations, a unit in the UC Davis Office of Research, acts to guide faculty members through the patent application process, which is described as a “maze” and they also help “make essential connections to convey discoveries to the commercial marketplace.”
They trumpet their successes including “a recent innovation spearheaded by UC Davis researchers with potential to help children and adults with status epilepticus, a prolonged epileptic seizure that constitutes a life-threatening medical emergency. Boston pharmaceutical company SAGE Therapeutics licensed rights to commercialize the treatment that UC Davis neurologist Michael Rogawski and his colleagues have pioneered.”
“The success of SAGE Therapeutics demonstrates how our support of research technology developed by UC Davis faculty, in collaboration with a startup enterprise, can make a dramatic impact in people’s lives. That’s what’s so exciting about our biomedical innovations,” says Dushyant Pathak, UC Davis associate vice chancellor for Technology Management and Corporate Relations in the Office of Research.
There are three parts to Dushyant Pathak’s division, which include Innovation Access, Venture Catalyst, and the Office of Corporate Relations.
As he explains, ““Our office seeks out and identifies synergies that cut across disciplines, schools and colleges, and facilitates effective engagement of companies with the right partners amongst our faculty… The Office of Research is the only unit within the university with a mandate that crosses all disciplines, schools and colleges to interface our research enterprise with the external infrastructure of commercialization.”
Senior Associate Dean Lars Berglund “regards cross-disciplinary collaborations as fundamental to successful investigations.”
He explained, “UC Davis is a more complete university than many other institutions because of its strength in multiple areas, including medicine, veterinary medicine, nursing, engineering and biological sciences. That sets us up to establish unique partnerships. But we must first find areas where people can come together in ways that are logical, that aren’t forced.”
Thomas Nesbitt, UC Davis Health System associate vice chancellor for Strategic Technologies and Alliances, explains the importance of multidisciplinary teams that can lend fresh perspective to examining and overcoming obstacles. What is known as “big data” is essential to this function.
Associate Vice Chancellor Nesbitt explains, “We are producing large amounts of data that often are not analyzed and not translated into actionable clinical information. A single person’s genome profile consists of a tremendous amount of data, and then there’s patient-generated data, from devices such as personal activity trackers. If analytics are applied, all of those data could be turned into actionable information.”
He adds, “For each patient in an ICU, each beep represents a data point. Is it possible to begin to analyze all that data to better determine how to improve the care of patients?”
Last week, in her Vanguard column, Chancellor Linda Katehi noted, “In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, thanks to the little known Bayh-Dole Act signed into law in by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, universities started to create the first incubators and start-up companies.”
The article here notes, “The impetus to explore potential commercial solutions to those and other intriguing questions likely wouldn’t exist at UC Davis or any other research university that receives federal research funds, were it not for the 1980 passage of the landscape-altering Bayh-Dole Technology Transfer Act. That legislation authorized universities to take ownership of inventions made by academic researchers with funding from the federal government and grant licenses to companies to commercialize such discoveries.”
“The Bayh-Dole act triggered a gigantic increase in patents filed by U.S. universities. Passage of the Bayh-Dole Act was a seminal event in creation of tech transfer activities at universities,” explained David McGee, executive director of UC Davis InnovationAccess.
The act allows the university to share royalties with faculty inventors. As they explain, “The Bayh-Dole Act specifies that as a condition of ownership of intellectual property, universities agree to earnestly pursue marketing of patented faculty inventions.”
“The Office of Research has, during the past half-dozen years, evolved into a one-stop shop for evaluation of patent potential, patent filings, technology licensing, commercialization management and other vital technology transfer functions,” the article explains.
David McGee credits “the evolution of the Office of Research to the entrepreneurial leadership of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.”
He said, “Chancellor Katehi instilled within faculty across the campus the importance of entering into the technology transfer process, fostering and supporting interest in startup companies, and working with companies in general.”
Chancellor Katehi added, “The vast majority of our innovations take place in the research labs and workshops of this nation’s universities…. University research translates into more than just new ideas. It is directly responsible for jobs, economic health, and the long-term competitiveness of our state and nation.”
The article notes, “Cary Adams, founding chair of the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance, on whose board of directors he serves along with Pathak, agrees that UC Davis has a pivotal role in maintaining the momentum of the area’s thriving medical technology industry. The group was founded in 2001 jointly by the Sacramento Metro Chamber, the Golden State Capital Network, and UC Davis Connect, which was later incorporated into InnovationAccess.”
“We at SARTA believe that much of the knowledge discovery taking place at UC Davis can be commercialized, and we want to help make that an efficient process. We try to bring all the resources that a startup needs – a network, access to training programs, and connections with people who can help them fill out their team,” Mr. Adams said.
“We have in our community strength in research and supportive industry clusters in areas that will transform medicine over the next decade or two. They include regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, telehealth, and molecular imaging,” Mr. Adams continued. “Our region has unique resources that create a tremendous opportunity to build very successful industry clusters that can do a lot of good for our community, for UC Davis, and for the world.”