There is an expectation when people find out about Technology Transfer, that sourcing new technologies, inventions or reagents for translation is a straightforward process: You approach the researcher, request information about the invention or creation and can easily find a commercial partner to license the technology to or spin it out into a start-up – simple. Unfortunately, universities are more like jungles and Technology Transfer is more Brownian. It can be hard to identify where new opportunities exist within the university and who to talk to about them.
To this end, Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) at universities have tended to be more reactive in commercialising reagents and many of the technologies in their portfolios. However, with the need to prove an institute’s societal impact and value, TTOs need to become more proactive.
A Dedicated Resource?
Some technology transfer offices have responded to this need by shifting slightly from the cradle-to-grave approach, where individual technology transfer officers are responsible for sourcing new reagents and technologies and then shepherding them throughout the entire commercialisation process. Some universities and TTOs have changed this model by introducing a role within the university or TTO, whose sole responsibility is to go out into the university, establish relationships with academics and identify commercial opportunities. They then pass these commercial opportunities over to other members of the Tech Transfer Team for commercialisation. This account manager role within the TTO office allows the TTO to cross the division between the research focus of the academic university departments and the commercialisation focus of the TTO, helping to build personal relationships and proactively identify new opportunities, whilst also raising awareness of what the TTO does.
An Alternative Solution
Within Cancer Research UK there is the potential to partner with external institutions in order to identify these opportunities, without using up valuable TTO resources. Cancer Research UK has two such teams who identify commercial opportunities at its institutions across the UK; the Opportunity Sourcing & Translation (OST) Team and Ximbio.
The OST team’s role is to meet and talk to the Cancer Research UK-funded researchers on their institute’s campuses and discover what new research is emerging and whether it could be suitable for translation. The team’s focus is on life science therapeutic or clinical opportunities. In contrast, Ximbio focuses on life science reagents, that could be used in non-therapeutic instances. These reagents, which are often overlooked, can provide a long-term source of revenue for TTOs and their institutes. Unlike OST though, Ximbio also doesn’t focus only on Cancer Research UK researchers – it identifies, promotes, manages and commercialises reagents on behalf of TTOs globally.
Having this dedicated focus on identifying specific types of opportunities means Cancer Research UK can penetrate the jungle environment, identify key researchers to contact and opportunities for Cancer Research UK to translate and commercialise. Close collaboration between these two teams also ensures no opportunities are lost and that each opportunity is managed by the right person.
TTOs differ from one another – in terms of their size, their structure and their areas of focus. However, one place where they are all similar is in their need to be proactive, to be able to identify opportunities within their institute and to capitalise on these opportunities, no matter the size of their team. Ximbio can help you proactively identify life science reagents on your campus.