Importance of Tech Transfer
A coalition of academic umbrella organizations that originally lined up with Stanford is now stating that it wants to maintain the U.S. tech transfer system. The Association of American Universities, American Council on Education, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Association of University Technology Managers, and Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) together have noted, “We are committed to working together in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to ensure the continued vibrancy of public-private partnerships and success of our shared objectives.”
What does “working together” mean? “We already have an informal umbrella group that continually looks at ways to improve technology transfer policies and practices, and we will be examining the impact of Stanford v. Roche on those policies and practices. We are not seeking any changes to the Bayh-Dole Act, legislative or otherwise,” the coalition said in a statement to GEN conveyed by BIO spokeswoman Stephanie D. Fischer.
Universities have ramped up tech transfer over the past decade. Between 2000 and 2009, according to the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), total research expenditures from federal and industrial sources for U.S. universities, hospitals, and research institutions doubled (from $27.9 billion to $53.9 billion). The number of invention disclosures also rose during this period (from 11,974 to 20,309), as did patent filings (from 6,073 to 12,109).
The recession has flattened that growth trajectory, however. While total research spending rose 5% (from $51.5 billion) between 2008 and 2009, the year-over-year numbers were flat for invention disclosures (under 1% growth from 20,115 in 2008) and patent filings (down 0.7% from 12,194 in ’08).
Worse, license income from tech transfer fell 32.5% from 2008’s $3.4 billion and the following year’s $2.3 billion. AUTM pointed out, though, that the ’08 figure included large one-time payments to Northwestern University, City of Hope National Medical Center, Beckman Research Institute, Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
With the economy still shell-shocked by recession, and the recovery sluggish at best, universities and other institutions will be counting on the tech transfer system created by Bayh-Dole to commercialize discoveries and generate additional revenues. Indeed, the Supreme Court didn’t strike down any part of Bayh-Dole. But for institutions to take full advantage, they’ll have to make sure their interests aren’t weakened by either the employment contracts they sign with their researchers or the agreements those inventors in turn sign with collaboration partners.