Scripps’ Young Tech Transfer Boss Seeks to Cut Deals With Industry, Not Just Push Paper
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from top administrators for not bringing in enough bacon for the institution, and from faculty for not helping them bolster their resumes and making them rich. Drive too hard of a bargain for your faculty and administrators, and the pharma industry and investors will complain about you being an intransigent bureaucrat standing in the way of medical progress, and they’ll look elsewhere. And if you do your job exceptionally well, critics will probably accuse you of selling the institution’s soul, and putting filthy lucre ahead of the nobler goals of teaching and basic research. If you are anybody other than a tech transfer standard bearer like MIT or Stanford, criticism pretty much goes with the territory. (Check this online summary of the growth and controversies at Scripps.)
Possibly because of the sensitive nature of this activity, Scripps doesn’t disclose a lot publicly about how it’s performing. The institution has an annual budget of $324 million for research, staff of 2,800 people, and 225 faculty. Scripps doesn’t publicly disclose data on how much that translates each year into new patent applications, new startup companies, new technology licenses to companies, and annual licensing revenue—at least to the usual depository for that data, the Association of University Technology Managers. But when I asked for some of the numbers, here’s what Forrest had to say:
—Three startup companies emerged in the 12-month period ending in October with ties to Scripps researchers. They are Epic Sciences, Receptos, and Zyngenia. “All three have attracted substantial investment by blue-chip VCs,” Forrest says. He adds that if you go back to 2006, the list of promising startups with strong Scripps ties includes Fate Therapeutics, Sapphire Energy, aTyr Pharma, Proteostasis and Calmune.
—Scripps doesn’t disclose the amount of money it generates from technology licenses. (Even so, the institute did say in its annual report that it generated $476 million in grant and contract revenue in the year ended September 30, 2008, plus another $37 million in what it calls “other revenue and support.”)
—Scripps faculty disclose about 200 to 220 new inventions to the tech transfer office each year, Forrest says.
—The institution files patent applications on about 50 to 75 new inventions per year, Forrest says.
There are reasons for Scripps to come out publicly with such data, such as showing that it puts taxpayer grant support to a practical use. There’s also that matter of dispelling misperceptions … Next Page »