Technology office seeking fresh ideas with commercial potential
By Jan Jarvis and Russell Rian
With more than 200 laboratories on campus, thousands of faculty members and students exchanging ideas, and nearly $420 million in research projects underway, the marketplace of ideas thrives at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The Office for Technology Development team wants to tap into that stream of ideas for those that hold commercial potential – particularly with the arrival of new faculty and students – and is launching an educational campaign to bring more attention to such opportunities and ways the office can assist.
The campaign comes on the heels of the UT System Technology Management Council meeting, which was hosted by UT Southwestern’s Office for Technology Development (OTD) recently at the BioCenter at Southwestern Medical District on the East Campus. The event brought together UT System leaders involved in technology development from across all disciplines.
“The No. 1 concern from all the campuses is to raise the number of disclosures they get from faculty, so everyone is working on ways of educating faculty on the patent system,” said Frank Grassler, Vice President for Technology Development, who leads UT Southwestern’s efforts to promote the commercial development of faculty discoveries that ultimately benefit patients. “Faculty members may not realize that their work might be the foundation of a patentable or commercializable invention.”
The OTD coordinates UT Southwestern’s efforts to commercialize promising biomedical discoveries, medical devices, and health-related software by facilitating relationships with the private sector – everything from aiding in development of medical apps for smartphones to drug discoveries. Issues the office can assist with include confidential disclosure agreements, patents, licensing agreements and options, business startups and equity deals, negotiations with venture capitalists, and other resources for business development and corporate-sponsored research agreements.
“We can help with everything from space in the BioCenter to putting them in touch with potential entrepreneurs, investors, or potential licensees,” said Mr. Grassler, a former Merck and Co. attorney who came to UT Southwestern in 2012 after consulting at Genentech, a leading biotechnology firm. He previously had served as Vice President for Intellectual Property at Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical company, and as Vice President of U.S. Intellectual Property for GlaxoSmithKline.
In addition to assisting in development of medical devices or drugs, the OTD can help with securing copyrights and licensing of smartphone apps for commercial or public service use.
For example, a former dermatology resident, Dr. Shadi Kouroush, worked with the OTD when she designed the Skin Advocate iPhone app to refer patients with a skin condition to an advocacy organization suited to their suspected diagnoses.
“The app has made a remarkable difference and had a very impressive result,” Mr. Grassler said. “It has been used by patients and dermatologists outside this geographic area, even outside the United States.”
From September to October in 2011, the Skin Advocate app was downloaded 1,006 times by 304 users and showed an improvement in referrals for 95 percent of Texas dermatologists who used it.
“We want other developers of apps to contact us and let us help with the commercialization or public development of their apps,” Mr. Grassler said.
For more information, visit the Office for Technology Development or email firstname.lastname@example.org.