Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Another view of Technology Transfer

In reading this post, Mo talks about the "new economy" and tech transfer supporting that. I very much agree with his view that we (being the biotech industry) have managed to outsource a good whack of base R+D to the universities, but I also think we keep a whole lot to ourselves. He points to a bunch of newspaper articles that talk about tech transfer, and I think they are good articles. To me, though, it doesn't feel right.

My objections, starting with the most trivial.
1. I think he is wrong about the "most succesful" being WARF. I think Columbia University, with the licensing of the Hybridoma patents, has to be the top. As a general bet, I would guess that Stanford, with peices of both YAHOO and GOOGLE, probably did OK. Limiting just to Life Science, I would still place my money on Columbia. 1 patent, and my understanding (but not direct knowledge of information) is that they are trying to extend those licenses. WARF gets good press, and I have talked with them in the past.

2. I don't think that the "R" part of R+D has been totally outsourced to Universities yet. We certainly pick up base level discoveries from them, and that is a hugh chunck of what I do, BUT we also do a lot of base "R" ourselves. We don't have the ability (or the desire) to direct their research as we would like, so we run with a lot of stuff ourselves. In hot areas, I think you have to, as otherwise everything that you touch will have a royalty payment attached to it and that will kill your margins.

I guess I would phrase it more as, the academics may get a push in to a hot area and will get licensed, but the second and on discoveries in that area have a good chance of coming from industry. I would very much agree with the statement that industry is rarely the "leader" in to a new area. The oringinal 'R' work is most likely to be done in academia.

siRNA is an example of an area where the beginning stuff was all academia. Industry was pretty late to the game. The exception being Dharmacon, which was there pretty early, and did a lot of the 'R' part and has the patents to show for it. Others got in by playing the licensing game. Not sure what the "score" is there, but at least 1 company was doing heavy lifting on the 'R' front. All the others were essentially 'D' only.

miRNA is going this way as well, whith industry doing a lot of the heavy lifting once academia made the first discoveries and pointed the way a bit.

I disagree a lot with the statements that Tech transfer offices are just getting established. I would say at this point that everywhere has them and is aware that they are a good idea. I see things from everywhere. I would, it it had been said, also agree that the tech transfer offices have a whole lot of work to do before they are all "good", but many of them are there already.

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