Scientists: Our Next Model

Article excerpt

Think "scientist." Close your eyes. What do you see? A genius wearing a pair of well-worn hushpuppies accompanied by the traditional white socks, pants hemmed too high, pocket protector jammed with pens and pencils. The traditional "absentminded" scientist thinks Britney Spears is a cocker spaniel.

Or do you see a lady driving a Jaguar, her one expression of extravagance, to a lab where post docs carry out her instructions in detail, investors are anxious to know her thoughts on experimental progress, the management team seeks her advice on recent technology developments by a competitor and personal financial consultants call to solicit her account.

While the first perception might have been true, the latter perception is approaching a more realistic and modern view.

Why? Economics. True life science advancements are economically valuable. There are two primary approaches open to scientists to accomplish their foremost objective of seeing their research result in practical applications in the real world, and both result in personal wealth.

One approach is by launching a commercial venture and the other is through licensing the technology to an existing commercial company. Either approach when successful translates into personal wealth for the scientist, the university or a for-profit company.

More and more scientists are participating in life science-based ventures -- sometimes as a CEO but more commonly as founder and chief scientist. With the explosion in biotech, more scientists are finding themselves in new and challenging life rolls. In addition to outside interest in university research, scientists are more intrigued with commercialization.

A recent survey by The Scientist, a news journal for life scientists, shows that 80 percent had never attempted to commercialize a product, however, 50 percent of the scientist thought about taking their research discoveries to market. Those who did not pursue commercial development cited the following factors: not knowing how to do it, restrictions by the research institute, no time and too risky.

A recent report in Red Herring notes that success with patent licensing is dependent upon a creative faculty willing to disclose its inventions to a technology transfer office and location in a business-friendly environment. …