Q&A: How WARF Plans to Stay Relevant in Lean Times for Tech Transfer

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big step forward from a capital base that is quite small compared with Silicon Valley and Boston—but multiple orders of magnitude for us. [Companies in] the state [received] $100 million last year in venture capital and Silicon Valley had over $10 billion. There is a scale of difference there. But that money is the fuel that startup companies need to grow. When you look long-term at the record, WARF has been in the top three to five institutions from the standpoint of long-term generation of IP income from the licensing of tech to industry. Most of this comes from licensing to established companies rather than startups.

One licensee, Cellular Dynamics, went public in late summer. Before that, we had a radiation therapy breakthrough. Others have been acquired by Roche. Our single most valuable partner has been Abbott (NYSE: ABT), with a renal disease breakthrough that has brought many hundreds of millions of dollars back to the university. We’ve generated about $1 billion in IP income, which is hugely beneficial to the university, also in terms of our ability to support grants for ongoing research.

X: In which sectors have you had the most successful transfer deals? Is there a specific niche, or niches, that have emerged?

LC: As a general rule, this maps to where the research funding is focused from the federal government, two-thirds on life sciences, one-third on the physical sciences. We have a great portfolio of IP in both of those areas. We’ve had a long-time partnership with GE in medical imaging, MRI, CT scans.

We have a startup building breakthrough motors and generators. We don’t know if that will be a success, but if we see something that represents an exciting new idea in an area that’s big, and widely used, those are the kinds of things we try to back when we can. Those are disruptive technologies. We try to capitalize that innovation all across the value chain. That’s what we try to do. It’s a long-term game and what you want to have is a diverse portfolio, different opportunities at different stages of development. We hope to, over time, get a good number of winners and a pipeline of new opportunities.

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One response to “How WARF Plans to Stay Relevant in Lean Times for Tech Transfer”

  1. jim hill says:

    Good luck niw colleges are going to become start up companies. Big pharms has the infrastructure but is strangled by the regulations and the restrictions on what they can charge. Thanks be to obama.