Office for Technology Development: Concerted effort helps move discoveries from lab to marketplace

By Amanda Siegfried / Holidays 2010

What do a drug that breaks down blood clots, a calcium supplement to prevent osteoporosis and a detachable coil for the treatment of aneurysms have in common?

Each of these products — on the market today, treating patients and saving lives — was once just an idea in the mind of a UT Southwestern faculty member.

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The process of transforming a scientific discovery or a design for a new medical device into a commercial product, however, typically requires help from experts outside the laboratory. At UT Southwestern, that help comes from the Office for Technology Development, which coordinates the medical center’s efforts to commercialize promising discoveries, medical devices and health-related software.

Twenty-five staff members manage all aspects of UT Southwestern intellectual property, identifying potential patents as well as opportunities to license technology to existing companies. The team also helps secure funding from investors focused on assisting early-stage technology companies to support further development of promising ideas.

In the past decade, the office has helped generate more than $100 million in revenue for the medical center and more than 500 patents naming UT Southwestern researchers as inventors.

“Our mandate is to advance new technologies and therapies for the benefit of patients and society,” said Dr. Dennis Stone, vice president for technology development. “At the same time, we also serve the needs of the faculty, generate income for stakeholders and develop biotechnology companies in the region.”

The Office for Technology Development constantly tracks changes in law — such as a recent Justice Department ruling that unmodified DNA is not patentable — as well as trends and potential unmet needs in the marketplace, said Dr. Stone, who has led the office since 1998.

The newest component of the tech development office is BioCenter at Southwestern Medical District, a 15.5-acre biotech park opened in April 2010 by UT Southwestern to provide state-of-the-art lab space and shared resources for new ventures.

The facility houses a bioinstrumentation unit, as well as office space and cubicles. Experts are also on hand to assist with financing issues and to educate faculty members about entrepreneurship and business strategies.

“BioCenter provides a vital resource for commercial development of discoveries made at
UT Southwestern and elsewhere so that these advances ultimately can be available to benefit patients,” Dr. Stone said.

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Dr. Stone holds the NCH Corporation Chair in Molecular Transport.