Commercialization and Tech Transfer Task Force Group Meets in Shreveport

BATON ROUGE – In another step in the process of reshaping LSU, the first meeting of the Commercialization and Tech Transfer Task Force Group of the Transition Advisory Team was held on Wednesday, Feb. 27, on the LSU Shreveport campus. This Task Force Group is part of the LSU2015 process for the reorganization of LSU.

Task Force Groups have been formed to focus on specific areas of priority in the realignment process. There are six Task Forces Groups, made up of members of the Operations & Technology and Research & Discovery Sub-Committees, working on various subjects related to reorganization. These areas include commercialization and technology transfer, streamlining, external affairs, administrative services, revenue generation and technology.

During Task Force meetings, testimony is being provided by national and local subject matter experts. Reports and findings are being discussed and input from the public is being heard. Information from the Task Force meetings will become part of a final report to be submitted to the Transition Advisory Team and ultimately to the LSU Board of Supervisors.

The Commercialization and Technology Transfer Task Force is focused on removing barriers, stimulating discovery and increasing deal flow. By-laws of the LSU Board of Supervisors, external reports, pre-angel capital and research of communication best practices are also being reviewed.

The Commercialization and Technology Transfer Task Force heard a report on technology transfer from Margaret Wagner Dahl, associate provost for economic development and director of the Georgia BioBusiness Center.

In her position at Georgia, Dahl looks how a land-grant university is engaged in the subject of economic development across the institution. She said that when looking at Louisiana, the state is poised to make some interesting movements in how LSU is engaged in economic development going forward.

Her report urged the task force to think about how LSU is really involved in the being engaged in economic development, both community based and technology based.

In her recommendations, Dahl said that the team can ensure success by streamlining processes, including expert patent counsel agreements, the ability to negotiate terms, establishing express template agreements where appropriate, signature authority by the president and measuring satisfaction of faculty and businesses. By streamlining these processes, tech transfer can be more efficient and can more quickly get out to the general public for use.

“Tech transfer is very much about managing your intuition’s intellectual product,” said Dahl, who noted that there is a difference between tech transfer and economic development.

In her closing observations, Dahl noted that creating a culture of collaboration across institutions is extremely hard.

“If it was easy to commercialize basic research, we wouldn’t be here,” said Dahl, who added the differentiator will be the institutions who figure out how to do it with quality.

In the afternoon session, the Commercialization and Tech Transfer Task Force heard from three presenters: Joe Lovett, managing partner with Louisiana Fund I; Ross Barrett, managing partner with BVM Capital LLC; and Tammy Dugas, LSUHSC-S Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Neuroscience.

Lovett talked about his relationship working with universities, the policies and procedures that work and the privatization process. To date, Louisiana Fund I has started or invested in 13 companies primarily based upon research licensed from the major research universities in Louisiana with 11 licenses, including eight from LSU. In addition to the investment from LSU Fund I, an additional $81 million has been raised from 16 venture capital and mezzanine investors for the 13 companies in the Louisiana Fund I portfolio.

“There are issues all over the place that are not unique to LSU and not unique to Louisiana,” said Lovett, who noted it’s the process and not the people that makes tech transfer commercialization less efficient.

Lovett provided suggestions to consider as the group proceeds through the reorganization discussion. These included showing off technology and getting it out of the labs and making LSU a one-stop shop for both tech transfer and licensing.

Barrett talked with the group about the investment process and gave examples of partnerships he has worked through in the past.

“What we’re doing here today is critically important,” he said.

Barrett left the group with his overall important points for the process, which included that this is an era of getting by with less; intangibles and reputation are critically important because return on investment is hard to justify; have policies and procedures that are certain and clear; and make the process easy.

“This can be tweaked or fixed to where the future is really, really bright,” he said.

Dugas provided the faculty perspective on tech transfer. She gave examples from the LSUHSC-S campus and discussions the faculty have had regarding tech transfer.

Dugas said tech transfer and commercialization for faculty is a foreign language.

“We’re not trained in tech transfer,” she said. “We’re trained in writing grants and writing manuscripts.”

Dugas discussed a faculty-driven retreat held last year that included 60 faculty members on six committees who provided recommendations for the technology transfer process at LSUHSC-S. The outcome from the retreat was the faculty recommended that two campus positions are necessary for the tech transfer office on campus: a “floor walker” (a scientist) and a business development person. This would ease the process for faculty by having someone there to assist them with all steps of the licensing process.

“Faculty need advocates,” Dugas said. “We need advocates at all levels … we need an advocate who can bring out the best in us.”

Members of the Commercialization and Tech Transfer Task Force are Tom Adamek, president, Stonehenge Capital; Ross Barrett, managing partner, BVM Capital LLC; Wade Baumgartner, LSU AgCenter, director of the Office of Intellectual Property and interim director of the Office of Sponsored Programs; Taylor Cox, LSU, Student Government president; Tammy Dugas, LSUHCS-S, associate professor, Neuroscience Center; Hamilton Farris, LSUHSC-NO, research assistant professor, Neuroscience Center; Joe Lovett, managing general partner, Louisiana Emerging Technology Center; Brian Nichols, LSU, chief information officer; Patrick Reed, LSUHSC-NO, Office of Technology Management; Jennifer Rood, Pennington BRC, professor and associate executive director for cores/resources; Nicole Honoree, LSU System, director of research and economic development initiatives, and Carla Fishman, LSU System, assistant to the vice president of academic affairs.

Online video streaming is available at http://www.lsu.edu/tat for all reorganization-related meetings for those who cannot attend in person.

The names of Task Force Group members, along with all the Transition Advisory Team Sub-Committee members, are available athttp://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015/subcommittees.shtml.

More information on LSU’s reorganization process can be found at www.lsu.edu/LSU2015. Information on the site includes meeting schedules, minutes and video and presentations from past meetings.