|Taking technology transfer to another dimension
By Barbara Frank
Q. What are your vision and goals for Technion Technology Transfer (T3)?
A. Our vision is ancillary to the goal and mission of the Technion. Namely, that through our support and encouragement we will help transform scientific discovery and innovative technology into real-life applied solutions for the advancement of the Technion, the State of Israel, and all humanity. Achieving this goal will allow the Technion to continue to be not only a top-notch research institution, but also a powerhouse for technology transfer. We aim to fulfill this vision by protecting Technion-bred inventions and know-how and by promoting its commercialization through a variety of business modalities.
Technology transfer takes creativity, time and tenacity. One of our goals at T3 – Technion Research and Development Foundation’s business unit – is to foster long-term relationships with faculty, industry (in Israel and abroad), and the financial community at large. We strive to streamline the technology transfer process and make it more efficient, effective, and user friendly. We foster commercial investment in the development of inventions and discoveries from research at the Technion through licensing of the intellectual property and through the establishment of start-up companies. We also play an active role as an entrepreneur by building up teams, preparing business plans and providing the capital necessary to mature the technologies developed by our researchers.
Q. What are the challenges in promoting technology transfer from Technion?
A. One of the main challenges of any technology transfer unit is the level of readiness of the research and its commercial viability. Hence, one of our main goals is to develop funding tools that will help us advance the research and bring it to such a stage that it becomes fundable in the eyes of prospective investors, such as VCs, Incubators, and Angels. Development of such tools has become crucial in light of the declining funds from the government available for conducting cutting-edge research, for maturing technologies, and for bridging the gap between bench-top research work and the marketplace.
Q. What are you doing to realize your vision, and what success do you have to date?
A. As part of the effort to implement its vision, T3 is working proactively towards increasing the level of openness of the institution to commercialization, with an increasing number of patents filed each year. We are building a community of business people, companies, investors, and entrepreneurs who want to do business with the Technion. We encourage entrepreneurs to engage in direct contact with researchers, by facilitating their initial exploratory discussion.
We are already witnessing a marked increase in the number of patents coming out of Technion research – from around 50 in 2005 to 100 in 2006 and 2007. This trend continues also in 2008. We look forward to an increase in the number of technological transfer deals, formation of companies and licensing deals of Technion technologies as well as an increase in the income that Technion generates from technology transfer while maintaining academic and scientific excellence.
One of Technion`s most notable recent successes in commercialization has been Azilect®. This revolutionary drug to treat Parkinson’s was developed by Profs. Moussa Youdim and John Finberg in collaboration with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. The very latest clinical results, from the ADAGIO trial, suggest that it could become the first neuroprotective drug with a disease-modifying effect. With the introduction of this drug, the Technion has entered a very exclusive club of universities around the world that were successful in bringing an FDA-approved drug to the marketplace – an achievement that escaped, to the best of my knowledge, even leading institutions such as Harvard and MIT.