Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Leveraging Talent and Technology

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Leveraging Talent and Technology

Article excerpt

Since I became president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation nine years ago, we've hired about 30 new faculty members. A majority were fresh from post-doctoral training, and few had grants.

Our hope is they'll develop into top-flight scientists, publishing articles in some of the nation's leading scientific journals and securing grants while making important discoveries.

But what about the commercial potential for their work? Will they patent discoveries or start local companies? And how does the prospect of commercializable research factor into our hiring decision?

At OMRF, technology transfer is important, but it always takes a back seat to medical research. Not the other way around.

For 60 years, our principal investigators have made strides toward fighting disease. If they apply for patents or start a company while they are researching and making new discoveries, then that's a bonus for OMRF. But it is not the principal reason we hire them.

Still, strong science inevitably yields commercial opportunities. Since I arrived in 1997, OMRF has filed for almost 200 different patents. Many of those patents have been licensed to for-profit companies, which are now working to develop them into commercial products like drugs and diagnostic tests.

During that same time, nine new companies have been formed based on OMRF technology. Those companies are exploring a wide range of therapeutic targets, from Alzheimer's disease to breast cancer. Some of these firms already employ dozens of people, and most of them have set up shop here in Oklahoma.

So even though OMRF doesn't actively seek out entrepreneurial scientists, we're finding them. And when scientists make discoveries that translate into business opportunities, we reward them.

We do everything we can to underscore the importance of technology transfer - and to encourage our scientists to think beyond the traditional, academic laboratory box. …

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