March 19, 2004

Vanderbilt’s technology transfer revenues on the rise

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Predicted structural model for the sodium channel C-terminal region, highlighting the EF-hand loop in yellow, with a blue calcium ion bound. The red amino acid (bottom center) is one that is mutated in long QT syndrome, which predisposes patients to life-threatening arrhythmias.

by Lisa Peper

In 1998, Vice Chancellor Harry R. Jacobson set a goal to increase revenues from technology transfer — intellectual property converted into commercial goods.

According to the 2002 Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) Licensing Survey, which was published in this month’s issue of The Scientist magazine, Vanderbilt is meeting its goal. The university has moved up from 62nd to 22nd in royalty earnings among survey participants.

“We’re very proud of these results; it’s a nice place to be,” said Christopher D. McKinney, director of the Office of Technology Transfer and Enterprise Development. “We’re gratified by the near-term success, but we’re also focused on the long run, and our office is working to load the pipeline for future results.”

Vanderbilt earned $11.9 million in license income in fiscal year 2002, an amount that was largely credited to WizOrder, the electronic order entry system created and developed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In 2001, VUMC licensed the rights for commercial development and marking of WizOrder to McKessonHBOC, Inc.

McKinney pointed out that each institution ranking high in the survey had one or more “home runs” — inventions that hit it big in the marketplace. He’s optimistic that Vanderbilt has taken steps that could result in future home runs and that Vanderbilt will remain in the upper quartile of the survey respondents.

The Office of Technology Transfer and Enterprise Development works with faculty to identify inventions, then protects these inventions with patents, markets them to industry, licenses them, and manages relationships throughout the technology transfer process.

In addition to licensing promising new technologies to existing companies, Vanderbilt also starts and invests in new companies based on Vanderbilt technologies. The office currently handles more than 600 technologies and more than 200 substantive commercial relationships.

“Vanderbilt has made an investment and commitment to technology transfer. Our program has been very successful, and it’s also poised for the future. This is an ‘invest now and reap later process,’ so we’ve focused on creating a mix of deals with various timelines,” McKinney said.