June 6, 2003

McKinney to head revamped technology transfer office

Featured Image

Christopher McKinney

A reorganization of the offices that oversee the commercialization of Vanderbilt research discoveries and inventions will result in a more streamlined process for the transfer of new technologies to the marketplace, according to a plan announced June 2 by University officials.

The Office of Technology Transfer and the Vanderbilt University Technology Company (VUTC) will be merged into a new Office of Technology Transfer and Enterprise Development (OTTED). Christopher D. McKinney, a veteran technology licensing expert who has served as director of Technology Transfer since 2001, will head the new department.

“Vanderbilt has made very nice progress in its efforts to realize value from its intellectual property as well as its intellectual capital. Our rapidly growing research base should generate many more opportunities,” said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

The move will consolidate the intellectual property management and technology licensing functions of Technology Transfer with VUTC’s development of new start-up companies and funding of new firms through the Chancellor’s Fund.

“The commercialization of research and discovery is an essential part of Vanderbilt’s mission that will return intellectual and financial dividends to the University,” said Chancellor Gordon Gee. “With Vanderbilt’s rich diversity of expertise — in such areas as biomedicine, pharmacology, informatics, education and technology, among others — we will be well served by having a strong, nimble entity that can help researchers navigate the complex marketplace, and connect potential investors and licensors with new opportunities.”

The new office will aggressively promote the large number of biomedical technologies developed at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as a wide range of technologies developed in other schools at Vanderbilt, such as Engineering, Arts and Science and Peabody College.

The Office of Technology Transfer and Enterprise Development will continue to report to William T. Spitz, vice chancellor for investments and treasurer, who appointed McKinney to lead the new operation.

“Chris McKinney has the credentials, experience and creativity to ensure our continued success in positioning Vanderbilt for new technology commercialization opportunities,” Spitz said. “He is an internationally recognized leader in the technology transfer community who knows how to navigate the academic environment.”

Added Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Nicholas S. Zeppos: “The breadth of research and discovery at Vanderbilt is remarkable. Equally remarkable, though, is the potential for translating new knowledge into the marketplace, which in turn will create new opportunities for our academic programs. Our faculty and students will benefit from this new structure and leadership.”

Before joining Vanderbilt, as director of the OTT and lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, McKinney was vice president for marketing at University of Tennessee Research Corporation. He holds a doctorate in political science from Idaho State University and an MBA from Oregon State University. He has been a senior licensing executive at Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and also served as associate and interim director of the Office of Technology Licensing at the University of Florida. McKinney currently serves as the vice president for professional development of the Association of University Technology Managers, an international organization with more than 3,000 members.

Vanderbilt has aggressively pursued technology transfer and commercialization opportunities in recent years through VUTC, which has invested the $10 million Chancellor’s Fund in 15 active companies based on faculty research. Those firms have so far generated an additional $50 million in external funding, and Vanderbilt’s ownership is presently valued in excess of $40 million. OTT, which manages nearly 500 technologies on behalf of Vanderbilt, presently has more than 175 active commercial agreements in place and has generated approximately $12 million in revenue in fiscal year 2002.