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VU’s technology commercialization efforts make strides

Sep. 26, 2013, 10:28 AM

Over the past three years, Vanderbilt University more than quadrupled earnings from its technology commercialization efforts — to more than $24.5 million in the 2013 fiscal year that ended June 30, officials have announced.

Alan Bentley, assistant vice chancellor for Technology Transfer in the Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization (CTTC), acknowledged that it will be difficult to approach this level of financial success every year, but he sees some very positive indicators of improved commercial effort.

Alan Bentley

“Due to annual fluctuations in our business, we look at three year averages for our metrics,” said Bentley. “Though fiscal year 2013 revenues achieved a new high, we have made great strides in other key areas, such as inventor engagement and transactional efficiency.”

Several major licensing agreements boosted earnings last year, including a license with Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop potential new drugs for Parkinson’s disease, another with AstraZeneca to develop potential new drugs for schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, and one with Parker Hannifin Corp., to commercialize a lightweight, mechanical exoskeleton technology.

While financial details were not disclosed, “the real significance lies in the formation of strategic partnerships with world leaders in the biopharmaceutical and engineering industries,” Bentley said.

That’s not the whole story. Bentley pointed to two key metrics — the number of invention disclosures and licenses executed — to illustrate CTTC’s growth. The center executed 82 licensing transactions last year, a 60 percent increase compared to the average for the previous three years.

Not all of these deals will pan out, and it generally takes a decade before income is generated through royalties. But, said Bentley, “transactions now set the table for long-term financial health.”

Disclosures of new ideas also were up by 10 percent over the corresponding three-year average.

This growth put Vanderbilt in a select group last year — only about a fifth of research universities reported an increase in disclosures. In an era of restrictive government spending on research, an increase in the number of disclosures implies that faculty members are engaging with the CTTC to get their ideas to market.

“We strive hard to deliver personal service and new programs to enhance the innovation experience at Vanderbilt,” explained CTTC Licensing Director Chris Harris.

These programs include an educational series for entrepreneurs and inventors, graduate and undergraduate student internship programs, and a first-of-its-kind comprehensive pharmaceutical pipeline commercialization manual and initiative.

Efforts are underway for a variety of new programs to enhance inventor service and value creation in the current fiscal year.

“Just as our researchers are expected to innovate, so must we continue to refine and advance our efforts to provide quality technology commercialization and new venture services to the Vanderbilt community,” Bentley said.

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