Worth Reading: From the Senate to Girls with Trucks

Online reading of technology transfer newsThis month’s worth reading list includes quite a few items that relate to each other. So I’m going to do some categorizing. Our topics this month are: Senator Wyden’s letter to NIH concerning collaborations with industry, internship programs for technology transfer offices (TTOs), the need for nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), and a few items from the “Now That’s a New Perspective” desk.

Sen. Wyden’s Open Letter Asking NIH to Reexamine Policies

By now you likely have heard about the March 19th letter that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent to the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to express his “concerns about achieving a reasonable balance between getting breakthrough pharmaceuticals to market quickly, making sure patients can afford these medicines and protecting the interests of taxpayers.” You can read Sen. Wyden’s letter to NIH here, but be sure also to read several pieces that point out the flaws in this proposed policy:

  • Sen. Wyden’s Proposal Will Kill NIH-Pharma Collaboration by former president of Pfizer Global Research John LaMattina, who recounts his insider’s view of the history surrounding the discovery and development of the company’s rheumatoid arthritis treatment Xeljanz®, whose recent FDA approval prompted Sen. Wyden’s letter.
  • Jeopardizing U.S. Drug Development by Bayh-Dole expert Joe Allen, who provides compelling historical evidence indicating that Sen. Wyden’s proposed “new” approach is anything but and has already failed once.
  • Take Action: Send a Letter to Sen. Wyden by president of the Association of University Technology Managers® Sean Flanigan, who urges members (especially those with NIH funding) to become familiar with the situation (mainly by reading the three links above) and then write to Sen. Wyden (copying NIH’s Dr. Colllins) to register your concerns (a template letter is provided)

Thanks to Forbes, IPWatchdog, and AUTM for publishing these insights about the Wyden proposal and laying out many of the concerns. For my part, I think the royalty revenue from the licensed technology is the return on investment to taxpayers and will provide additional dollars for future innovations. Instead of a government agency ignoring market factors, shouldn’t insurance companies and the rest of the market provide the appropriate push back for reasonable pricing (i.e., the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)? I’m sure the NIH OTT is thrilled to be spending many hours pulling together the requested data on all agreements since 1995 — now that’s a good use of taxpayer dollars.

BTW, if you’re feeling in a mood to respond to Sean’s call to arms, you should also read Joe Allen’s “Time to Take a Stand.” In it, he reviews some of the recent attacks on the tech transfer industry while delineating the data that oppose those attacks. He also rightly points out that “It’s up to us to communicate this success to our political leaders, the media, and most importantly, to hard pressed American taxpayers who deserve to know how the dollars they entrust to the public sector are being managed.” Want to get started? Check out Danielle McCulloch’s blog post about NASA’s efforts in this vein, peruse other types of success stories we have on our site, consider pursuing some awards, or contact us to find out how we can help you clearly state your case.

TTO Interns

Technology Transfer Tactics published “Want Better Interns for Your TTO? Offer Structured Apprenticeships” in the February issue, though you can see a preview on their blog. This profile explains how Moffitt Cancer Center’s TTO overhauled its internship program to be a more enriching experience for students who, in turn, deliver a higher quality work product. This is great news for Moffitt and, based on our experience, not at all surprising. Like Moffitt, Fuentek has seen that taking an intern-centered focus; planning the program‘s goal, structure, and timing carefully; and effectively recruiting and carefully screening candidates — along with providing an apprentice-style mentor-based training — pave the path to success. The full article offers loads of details about Moffitt’s program — if you don’t get the print newsletter, perhaps TTT will send you the February issue if you subscribe now.

Another approach was examined by Ira Daniels in his article “The Invisible Office: A Guide to Virtual Internships” on how virtual internships are flourishing in the age of online commerce and telecommuting. It’s a good piece aimed at helping college students secure those coveted internships, and I agree with his pros and cons. Given our business model, Fuentek is a proponent of virtual structures, but IMHO the virtual environment is not so good for someone starting out their career, when they need mentoring and more hands-on guidance to jump-start their learning.

To NDA or Not to NDA: That Is the Question?

Two articles ran very close together that took contrary views of the same topic. First we had “No, I Won’t Sign Your NDA” on the Inc. blog in which a venture capitalist (VC) asks inventors to “trust me.” Then a week later, TTT’s Tech Transfer Blog featured “Former TTO Director Explains ‘Hidden’ University Inventions,” which concluded with, “To those entrepreneurs and other private parties wishing to tap a university’s hidden technologies, Eldering recommends a direct, confidential approach — namely by signing a non-disclosure agreement.” Pretty different perspectives, eh?

Although the VC’s opinion and expectations may be shared by others, I don’t agree that inventors should be so trusting. Nevertheless, his perspective demonstrates why it is so important to get your non-enabling description (NED) pitch down. Especially given the new rules under the America Invents Act (AIA), the NED is crucial in meetings with potential investors/partners. To get their attention, you will need to get them interested in what your innovation can do for them first, not the technical details. If you get past this first meeting using the NED and the VC is interested in investing, they will be happy that you protected the intellectual property while shopping it around (as investors, they won’t want the IP compromised), and they will sign an NDA to learn more about how it works.

Now That’s a New Perspective

Finally, this month, I wanted to make sure you saw these new takes on topics we’ve covered before — namely, sequestration, patent trolls, and getting girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Check these out and then share your opinions by commenting below or sending me a private message.

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Posted by Laura Schoppe

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