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October 04, 1996 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-04

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14 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 4, 1996







l is Ilk fcrtta h n~cst >r',rhadd lnn
programsE111. ";hthcr _ f ..1i . _, Icnt _l. m' 'i'd otIn

Debbie Nachtegall, a University research engineer, cleans photographic plates in an electron-
ic engineering lab on North Campus yesterday. Nachtegall's research requires yellow lighting
because her work is sensitive to white light. JENNIFER BRADLEY-SWIFT/Daily

By Brian Campbell
Daily Staff Reporter

Robert Samors, University government relations officer
for research, who works in Washington, D.C., said the
University's reputation precedes him.
"Our researchers consistently rank highly in peer-
reviewed grant competitions across the disciplines.
Wherever I go in Washington, this reputation for excel-
lence is always there ahead of me," he said.
But are enough everyday people -taxpayers - able to
experience the benefits of the more than $400 million spent
on research at the University?
While the social benefits of a more effective treatment
for cancer or a more fuel-efficient car are obvious, the pos-
sible practical application of
most research isn't so apparent,

allowing for its commercial and
business potential to lie dormant
in the laboratory.
To promote the transfer of sci-
entific discoveries and inven-
tions to the larger society, the
University created the
Technology Management Office
in 1986.
Away from the laboratories,
in the Wolverine Tower, is a
highly trained group of lawyers,
scientists and business execu-
tives comprising the TMO staff.
TMO's mission is to bring the
scientific to the average citizen.
"Our job is to license technol-

'U' 1995 Reseal
Expenditures b
All Fiefds:S12.6

and then to the market.
"A company usually won't spend that much money so
somebody can take the fruits of their research." he said.
"The idea behind TMO is sufficiently motivating people
and companies to invest, and this can only be done through
commercial strategy."
Matrige n
The most recent business TMO began, in which it gath-
ered $1 million in venture capital, is Matrigen, a tissue
regeneration company now using recombinant DNA prod-
ucts to help heal bone fractures.
Dr. Jeffrey Bonadio, associate
research scientist at the Medical School
rch and one of the researcher-founders of
Fields the company, said his involvement with
y FTMO is beneficial for him and the
Numbers in millions University.
Other:$26 "The company has a relationship in
the form of a sponsored research agree-
h ical ment that brings in research dollars for
cie ces: $51.7 the University, which has the infrastruc-
ture for performing the research."
oci { Bonadio said.
cie ces: $56.5 "And it's good for me because it
involves my lab."
Bonadio, with fellow researcher-
g: $80.2 founders Dr. Robert Levy and Dr.
Steven Goldstein, made an agreement
for Research with the University so that their newly
developed technologies would be

health care - then I believe we have a responsibility to get
that information to the public," he said.
Goldstein said the perceived conflict between patenting
and publishing is simply a matter of following the existing
"There are specific rules for patent processing that allow
for publications," Goldstein said. "The way to keep the two
out of conflict, therefore, is to have a very timely and effi-
cient way of filing a patent so no publication is held up. It's
been my experience that publications are not discouraged
and not withheld."
Goldstein said he thinks attitudes toward applying for
patents are changing in academia.
"'There are faculty who continue to see much more value
in the publication pathway alone to transfer information.
My belief is that this group is declining in numbers and
more faculty see the need and value in technology transfer
under appropriate conditions," he said.
Attitudes about the division between academia and the
marketplace are changing in the University administration
as well. Last April the regents effected a bylaw supporting
TMO's mission, making it that of the University.
"The document on intellectual property passed by the
Board of Regents this year - with widespread support of
faculty and administration of schools, colleges and other
University units - emphasized an important principle:
That the transfer of new knowledge into societally useful

products and processes is part of the service mission of the
University," said Fred Neidhardt, associate vice president
for research.
FindIng funds
Robb said he thought the amount of industry-sponsored
research last year - 7 percent - was too low considering
the size of the University.
Neidhardt said due to anticipated cuts in government
funding, the University is keeping its options open for new
"The level of industry sponsorship of University researc*
is not bad, but if the federal government proceeds along
announced intentions to reduce research support by as
much as 20-35 percent over the next seven years, we shall
have to take seriously the views of those who urge more
private sector support of the nation's research," he said.
Bonadio said if government funding is reduced in the
future, scientists will likely find new ways to obtain fund-
"Scientists, being creative people, have looked for other
ways - definitely industry is a logical place to look," lie sai
Robb said he is confident that academic attitudes towar
marketing their research are changing.
"Fortunately a lot of educators are favorable and accept-
ing of it. They're aware that it is an important process that's
good for all of us."

ogy in the most effective way possible. Sometimes we can't
find a company for it and if we feel the technology deserves
to be in the public's hands, we'll build a business plan to
begin a start-up," said Robert Robb, TMO director.
To begin the University's technology-transfer process, a
researcher must disclose his or her discovery or invention
to TMO. TMO then evaluates the research by determining
its patentability and market potential. If the research is con-
sidered to have significant potential for practical applica-
tion, TMO will file for patents, create a marketing package
and sometimes provide late-stage funding for further
When the product is ready to be marketed, suitable com-
panies are contacted to negotiate licensing agreements. The
income from any licensing agreements made by TMO must
be shared with the researcher who made the discovery or
invention, according to federal law.
At the University, if a licensing agreement is made, the
researcher is guaranteed one-half the purchasing compa-
ny's payment up to $200,000, and one-third of anything
But if no company wants to purchase a 'license for a par-
ticular invention or discovery, and TMO thinks the research
still has market potential, it will assist the researchers in
starting their own company to
develop the technology.
"We don't have a lot of ven- ;<
ture capital in this area," Robb
said. "We have to make a con-
certed effort to make sure peo-
ple outside this geographic com-
munity know what we have."
TMO uses its resources to
contact venture capitalists for
companies it begins with
researchers. Robb said most of
the sought-after capital is found
on the East and West Coasts.
TMO helped initiate two Ann
Arbor based companies -
Aastrom Biosciences and <; f

licensed to Matrigen, while the University - as well as
Levy, Goldstein and Banadio - owns stock in the compa-
Since Matrigin is still relatively small and in the devel-
opmental stage, TMO supports the business by planning
basic strategies and recruits management so day-to-day
business operations don't detract from the inventors'
For Bonadio, it wasn't only the technology that spread
from the laboratory to society.
"You feel cloistered and sheltered in living a life within
a University like the U-M, but with the opportunity to spin-
off the technology, I'm more immersed in society than
before," Bonadio said.
Bonadio said focusing on his research didn't allow him
to grasp the market value of his work.
"I didn't have the perspective. The people in their (TMO)
office not only saw that the work was patentable but pro-
vided the foundation for a spin-off company - they've
been terrific," he said.
Corporate donors and venture capitalists believe
Matrigen has the potential to be a $100-million company
within 10 years.
"The launching of Matrigen represents an exciting devel-
opment in the University's approach to
technology transfer," said interim
President Homer Neal, former vice pres-
ident for research.
"It provides one new model for mov-
|| ing knowledge and technology devel-
oped by faculty and students into the
marketplace, and out to the larger soci-
ety, while simultaneously strengthening
the University's ability to nurture the
kind of research that will lead to future
discoveries," he said.
Applying for patents
But Bonadio said some researchers
aren't enthusiastic about applying for
patents because they don't want to wait
to receive them before disseminating



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