There’s an ambitious young director of technology transfer on the job at The Scripps Research Institute, and if he gets his way, people will soon think differently about how the San Diego research center relates with the business world.
“Historically, people have perceived that Scripps is more or less a subsidiary of a Big Pharma company for licensing purposes, so there’s no real point in licensing,” says Scott Forrest, director of business and technology development at Scripps.
“It’s not a correct perception,” he says.
Forrest, 32, has a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Virginia, and most recently got his tech transfer experience at the University of North Carolina. He joined Scripps in February with a goal of doing a better job of spinning out its renowned biomedical science into startup companies, as well as its potential drug candidates that might someday be commercialized in the wider world. Scripps is clearly pumped about Forrest’s prospects for raising the institution’s tech transfer game. Even though the office doesn’t even have its own website to explain what it has to offer (one is coming soon, I’m told), Forrest’s supervisor raved about him in an online Scripps newsletter posting in July.
“Scott is one of the best life sciences business development professionals that I have ever worked with,” Mark Crowell, vice president for business development at Scripps Research, said in the newsletter post. “He has an incredible technical background and an absolutely spot-on entrepreneurial and business sense. His ability to work with researchers at Scripps and with our corporate and venture capital partners will lead to solid business deals that get our technology out, generate appropriate returns for the institute, and help our partners achieve their business goals. We are extremely lucky to have him.”
Since we at Xconomy are always looking to write about bright ideas with commercial potential coming out of San Diego institutions, I figured this is a guy I should get to know. So I called up Forrest and asked him how Scripps is doing, and about his goals.
At its core, Forrest sees this as a “relationship business.” His goal is to actively help connect scientists with entrepreneurs, investors, and business development pros at pharma and biotech companies that they might not otherwise meet. And there’s plenty of room to improve at this, he says.
For example, tech transfer in the past might have waited for a superstar scientist like Peter Schultz to deliver a cool invention for patenting and licensing, and then hand it off to a big company already known to have an interest. Now, the tech transfer group wants to play a more pro-active role. Forrest says this means it will “roll up its sleeves” and do more to help a researcher form the business plans for a startup around his or her idea, help with raising capital, or make a key introduction to a pharma company that might have a place for such an idea.
“We have a lot of attention paid to us by Big Pharma companies and investors because of our scientific track record, but [in tech transfer] we haven’t always done a good job of building networks and being a source of deals, not just a processor of deals,” Forrest says.
This is all easier said than done. Tech transfer is one of the thorniest jobs you can get in an academic institution. Do a poor job of spinning out technologies into companies, and you get heat … Next Page »
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