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September 26, 2011
Volume 89, Number 39
p. 7

Moving From Lab To Market

Technology Transfer: President Obama unveils initiatives to encourage, support commercialization

Britt Erickson and Susan Morrissey

Before signing the patent reform bill and announcing several tech-transfer initiatives, Obama watched a demonstration of a robot created by students of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology. Chip Somodevilla/Newscom
Before signing the patent reform bill and announcing several tech-transfer initiatives, Obama watched a demonstration of a robot created by students of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology.
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President Barack Obama announced seven initiatives to speed up the transfer of research from the lab to the market. Involving the government, universities, and private groups, the initiatives include a prize, public-private collaborations, and federal programs to encourage commercialization, enhance technology transfer, and assist entrepreneurs.

Obama described the initiatives during the signing of the historic patent overhaul legislation at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, in Alexandria, Va., on Sept. 16. “This is the economy we need to build—one where innovation is encouraged, education is a national mission, and new jobs and businesses take root right here in America,” Obama said.

Two initiatives aim to accelerate drug development and help biotech entrepreneurs. The first is a partnership between NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and FDA to develop a chip to quickly screen drugs for toxicity and effectiveness. NIH plans to spend up to $70 million over the next five years to develop the drug-screening chip, and DARPA is expected to spend about the same amount.

The second is a change that would make it easier for start-up companies to license technologies patented by NIH and FDA intramural researchers: For companies that are less than five years old and have fewer than 50 employees, the cost and paperwork involved in licensing technologies in the NIH-FDA portfolio would be less.

Through another initiative, small businesses will also get a hand from a collaborative pilot program by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, NSF, and the Small Business Administration. The program will initially provide comprehensive intellectual property support to 100 NSF Small Business Innovation Research grant recipients, and it will engage external professionals to provide pro bono or low-cost IP services to recipients.

Three initiatives would facilitate tech transfer out of universities. The first is a new competition—the University Commercialization Prize. Details are not yet available, but NSF, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are together investing some $400,000 to support the prize. The competition is intended to identify and promote incentives to adopt best practices that improve commercialization efforts by academia.

The second is a push by the Administration, with the aid of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, to work with 135 university leaders to bolster entrepreneurship by building stronger ties between academia and industry, investors, and federal agencies.

And the third is the addition of four universities to the Coulter Foundation’s Translational Research Partnership Program, which provides support to universities to encourage translational research.

The final initiative Obama announced is the development, by January 2012, of a “Bioeconomy Blueprint” detailing Administration-wide steps to harness biological research innovations to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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