Securing patent protection for an invention requires a significant investment, and deciding which technologies to invest in is without question a risky business.
To reduce this risk, and gain valuable insight along the way, the University of Virginia Patent Foundation has called upon a distinguished group of local entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, academics and members of industry to serve as the Patent Foundation’s inaugural Advisory Panel.
Established in March of 2010, the Advisory Panel makes recommendations to the Patent Foundation regarding patent investment decisions and offers feedback on business plans for up-and-coming University start-ups. Panel members’ recommendations are based on factors such as the invention’s patentability, market analysis, industry feedback, research funding and the panelists’ own experiences.
“The University of Virginia has created a rich entrepreneurial environment that fosters many new and worthy technologies,” says Advisory Panel member Wendy Yarno, M.B.A., former chief marketing officer for Merck & Co. Inc. “The Patent Foundation has taken a very insightful approach in establishing this diverse Advisory Panel to assist it in determining which technologies show the most promise and helping those technologies become successful.”
The Advisory Panel also serves as a conduit for knowledge sharing, says Miette H. Michie, interim executive director and CEO of the Patent Foundation.
“In addition to providing invaluable feedback to our inventors and entrepreneurs, Advisory Panel members are providing us with the opportunity to engage them in the technology transfer process,” Michie says. “When panelists learn of a new and exciting U.Va. technology and the challenges of bringing it to market, they are also often able to forge helpful connections to advance that technology.”
Inventors of U.Va. technologies eligible for full U.S. or international patent protection are invited to present their inventions before the panel at quarterly meetings throughout the year. Following each invention presentation and subsequent question-and-answer period, panelists engage in discussion about the technology. The Patent Foundation promptly shares all panelist feedback with the appropriate inventors.
Michael C. Wiener, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular physiology and biological physics at U.Va., presented two of his laboratory’s inventions before the panel in April.
“Members of the Advisory Panel listened closely and asked substantive questions regarding both the technical aspects of our inventions and the business and financial aspects related to its out-licensing,” Wiener says. “They saw the potential of these inventions in their niche market, appreciated the length of time required for term-sheet and licensing negotiations, and recommended a strong position for the Patent Foundation.”
Due in part to the panel’s recommendation, the Patent Foundation filed for international protection on the Wiener Lab’s technologies, which could significantly improve the way researchers study membrane proteins and advance their use in structure-based drug delivery. In July, the Patent Foundation licensed the discoveries to Carlsbad, Calif.-based Omscientia Inc., which is working to launch its first products based on the technology in the coming months.
For more information about the Advisory Panel, including panel member biographies, visit www.uvapf.org/advpanel.