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TODAY news for Thursday, April 28, 2008

Loma Linda University news

LLU receives three-year grant from science foundation

The National Science Foun­dation has awarded Loma Linda University a three-year grant of $593,978 to lead a consortium in developing an innovative model for marketing research discoveries from Southern California universities. Barry L. Taylor PhD, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and former vice president for research affairs, will lead the project.

Dr. Taylor says that most universities are not very good at marketing their research discoveries, partly because they tend to compete rather than cooperate.

“Loma Linda will work closely with Larta Institute to develop a Larta concept that will enable universities to jointly market their discoveries by bundling related technologies from different universities,” Dr. Taylor notes.

 Larta Institute, a leading nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles,  pioneered the concept involved in the application to the National Science Foun­dation.

Speaking about the award, Rohit Shukla, chief executive officer of Larta Institute, says, “While it is hard work to bundle technologies developed by multiple institutions, the approach is the right one for the world we live in,” adding that “it took us a few attempts to get the concept recognized, and we’re thrilled to be part of the team that received the award.”

A technology may be marketable only after it is bundled with other inventions from multiple universities, and private sector firms have difficulty in negotiating similar licensing terms with the competing universities.

Larta founded Network T2, in which the technology transfer offices from regional universities and research institutions work collaboratively to overcome challenges to technology commercialization.

 The National Science Foun­dation made the award through its Partnership for Innovation Program (PFI) for a project titled “Inter-University Technology Bundling Project (IUTBP).”

The co-principal investigator for the Loma Linda campus is Carol S. Grande, director of intellectual property and contracts. Ms. Grande says, “The National Science Foun­da­tion’s goal in making PFI awards is to promote innovation by bringing to­gether colleges and universities, state and local governments, private sector firms, and nonprofit organizations.

“It was the partnership between Larta and Loma Linda University that made this application attractive,” says Ms. Grande.

Larta developed a pilot program, Virtual Bundling Agent in 2005-2007, in which related intellectual property spread among different universities was pooled into bundles that were more attractive to the private sector. The pilot was supported by an award from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Larta’s services develop high-growth entrepreneurs and drive the commer­­cialization programs of U.S. government agencies, universities, research institutes, and regions around the world.

“While research has become more collaborative and multi-institutional, technology transfer has not, and the intellectual property from myriad shared research projects remains untapped and difficult to gather into compatible ‘bundles’ which could speed commercialization on a broader scale,” Dr. Taylor comments.

“Loma Linda University was chosen to lead this project because of the potential to develop more technology that could be commercialized. By becoming the lead university in this project, Loma Linda University will benefit from shared experience of other members of the consortium.”

Loma Linda University also has a good track record in mentoring a diverse student population, including a very successful minority student development program. Training of minority students in technology transfer is an important goal of the project.

 The virtual bundling agent, piloted in 2005-2007, was designed and tested to address the above problem.

Causes of the problems include: suppliers (competition among researchers); pipeline (incompatible university processes); demand (competition among businesses); and atmosphere (a general lack of inter-agency trust). The new project, Inter-University Technology Bund­ling Project (IUTBP), will build on the infrastructure and knowledge gained through the pilot program.

The overall goal of IUTBP is to increase successfully transferred innovation coming from NT2 institutions by overcoming competitive issues, creating virtual bundles of compatible intellectual property from multiple NT2 sources, and facilitating the transfer of those bundles to the marketplace.

The program will include developing confidentiality and non-competition agreements signed by all NT2 research institutions to overcome competitive issues, as well as convening expert panels to build industry-specific bundles of like or complementary technologies from the intellectual property libraries of NT2 institutions.

Larta Institute will also act as an intermediary by widely marketing the bundles and assisting in the communication between interested industry partners and NT2 institutions. “As a non-profit organization, Larta Institute is interested in ensuring the wide adoption of creative solutions to the problem of increased isolation of research outcomes inside institutional boundaries,” said Mr. Shukla, adding that “Loma Linda will lead the members of Network T2 in demonstrating the usefulness and applicability of this concept, something for which we are all grateful.”

The project will help demonstrate new practices and methods for transferring technologies across other organizations and involve minority researchers, students, and business people to help to grow the innovation enterprises of tomorrow. Technology transfer generates new businesses and jobs in multiple sectors. 

 The regional academic and research institutions participating in the program include Cal Poly Pomona; California Institute of Technology; California State University, San Bernardino; Cali­fornia State University, Fullerton; California State University, Los Angeles; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; City of Hope; Claremont College’s Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Science; Loma Linda University; Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute; Pepperdine University; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Riverside; University of California, San Diego; San Diego State University; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, Santa Cruz; and University of Southern California.

By Carol Grande

TODAY news for Thursday, April 28, 2008