U of H’s Bose Focused on Bringing Innovation to Market

Rathindra N. Bose’s business cards read the University of Houston’s vice chancellor/vice president for research and technology. But he should’ve chosen the job title: technology evangelist.

You might not realize, he says, but the university is a top-tier research institution, graduating 300 PhD’s each year, with $150 million in research dollars, and a portfolio of 300 patents.

Despite a tight academic funding environment generally, Bose has managed to wrangle tens of millions of dollars to pay for a building-and-hiring spree to acquire the “tools and toys” that would attract the best and brightest to Houston. “Even at the assistant professor level, we are offering over $1 million in startup costs for their lab equipment,” he says.

Bose, who goes by “Roth,” has a PhD in chemistry from Georgetown University, and has one issued patent and three patent applications on cancer drugs and fuel cell electro-catalysts pending at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. He landed in Houston after a stint at Ohio University, where he oversaw 3,500 graduate students and a budget of more than $35 million, $68 million in research programs, and a tech transfer office with more than $8 million in royalties.

I sat down with Bose recently to speak about his mission and its challenges at U of H, how the science of superconducting was born there, and his plans to build the university’s very own power grid. Here is an edited version of that conversation:

Xconomy: Was commercialization always a part of the U of H mission?

Bose: It was not quite here but all the ingredients were here. So now we’re focused on how you package those things and create a strategy so that people from outside see that this is a translational research university. First, for any premier university, you need infrastructure. Before I got here, there were new research buildings being built. I took a proposal to the board of regents to create a third building that’s been approved and we are almost there on the fourth one.

Then we figure out what tools and toys you need to really put in those buildings to really attract the best and brightest from all over the world. I asked our chancellor to allocate 60 new faculty positions for STEM fields; those fields that are of real interest to us. We’ve hired 40 of them in last year and half and we are making offers. When you’re going to hire this type of faculty, you need to spend money to set up their laboratories.

Those are individual research labs. We also want to create core facilities that many faculty members can come and share. Those are very expensive toys, like $3 million, $4 million, $5 million toys that you cannot put in everybody’s lab individually. We have just created a transgenic mice facility, to knock out genes in specific mice to do the drug development work, to understand the mechanism of drug interactions. We are working on creating … Next Page »

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