Sept. 7, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 36


Of Note


Intellectual property office expands, gets new name

Map illustration

Technology transfer has begun a bold, challenging and potentially rewarding new era at the Health Science Center. The office of intellectual property administration has been renamed the office of technology ventures (OTV) and has been reorganized to provide a higher level of service to the faculty.

"We want our name to reflect what we do," said Dr. Gary J. Sertich, who co-directs the office with Alan H. Dean."This is not simply a reactive paper-shuffling activity. It is a proactive, cradle-to-maturity means of protecting the faculty's patentable ideas and capitalizing on their potential commercial value," he said.

The OTV expects a record number of invention disclosures in FY 2002 due to increased awareness of its capabilities and a "culture of entrepreneurism" being encouraged by Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Health Science Center president, and Dr. Steven A. Wartman, executive vice president for academic and health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

"There is ever-increasing appreciation of the role technology transfer plays in an academic institution," Dr. Wartman said. "Besides stimulating scientific inquiry, this process helps move discoveries from the lab to the public for its benefit. It can help jump-start biotech companies and stimulate the local economy. Further, the federal and state governments have encouraged this effort through several statutes and regulations, and the financial value created through licensing and new company formations can be extraordinary."

Stanford, MIT and Johns Hopkins are among the institutions efficiently transferring basic science research into commercial reality. UTHSC has the same goals. "Technology transfer provides potential for encouraging and rewarding innovation by the faculty," Dr. Wartman said. "It is very important as a recruitment and retention tool for many of the best and brightest faculty. It can be a powerful catalyst for the generation of new ideas and concepts as well as new research dollars. It also provides important recognition to the faculty and the institution."

The Palmaz® stent, a vascular appliance named for inventor Dr. Julio Palmaz, radiology, put the Health Science Center on the technology transfer map more than a decade ago. The stent research drew the attention of Johnson & Johnson, which successfully marketed it. A large percentage of the university's royalty income has come from the stent for many years. "It is our `signature' patent, without question," Dean said. "But now we are working with our faculty to diversify the Health Science Center's invention portfolio, and we are sharing a wide range of patented ideas with both start-up and established companies."

Even if a product is not successfully developed in the marketplace, a great deal of quality science comes out of the R&D (research and development) process. "Discoveries are made, jobs are generated and core competencies are established," Dr. Sertich said.

The office of technology ventures is playing a critical role in bringing a new bioscience company to San Antonio as part of its mission to serve the San Antonio community. The OTV recently helped recruit Birmingham, Ala.-based Atherotech to San Antonio. The company, which develops cholesterol-testing technology, is expected to move to the Alamo City later this year and eventually employ 50 people.

The OTV staff members also are working with two start-up companies, VidaCare, an intraosseus medical device company, and RadioPharma, a company selling radiopharmaceutical products for the burgeoning medical imaging industry.

The OTV has relocated to new quarters in the San Antonio Technology Center on Magic Drive near Fredericksburg Road. The center is focused on emerging technologies and companies. Faculty are welcome to visit the office and the staff is planning an open house later this year. The office has established a computer database of the last 30 years of discovery and patent activity at the Health Science Center and is beginning a Web-based marketing effort through the world's largest online service of its type. For more information, contact the OTV at ext. 7-6182.