Vanderbilt steps-up effort to help faculty create ventures, market products
Vanderbilt University is strengthening its staff, budget and technology for spawning new ventures and for marketing technologies and educational materials that have been developed by Vanderbilt faculty and staff.
VU Office of Technology Transfer and Enterprise Development Director Chris McKinney, Ph.D., told VNC the expansion of OTTED activities and resources is intended to increase licensing revenue that totaled $8.4 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2007.
Although Vanderbilt has not yet publicly released FY2008 financials, it's likely the numbers will take OTTED past the $30 million mark for licensing revenue generated during McKinney's tenure as director.
McKinney recently told VNC, "I am pleased to report that we've built a great team, have a robust pipeline of technologies, and are doing a wide range of commercial deals that, I believe, will catapult Vanderbilt into the most elite ranks of major research university technology commercialization in the coming years."
Vanderbilt executives, including McKinney and his staff, have been increasingly active in recent years in such groups as Nashville Capital Network, Angel Capital Group, Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC), Mind2Marketplace and other pro-venture and commercialization groups.
Now, Vanderbilt is picking-up the pace, further. For example, OTTED recently launched its "Startups Breakfast Club," a quarterly gathering of faculty who either are or would like to become "entrepreneurially active." The event attracted faculty associated with the founding of Pathfinder Therapeutics, Universal Robotics and other Vanderbilt portfolio companies.
OTTED also helped recruit faculty members to participate last week in TTDC's statewide innovation conference, here in Nashville. That program afforded scientists time to discuss their work informally with venture capitalists experienced in commercializing technologies.
Vanderbilt is also touting its readiness to accelerate the translation of Vanderbilt intellectual property into products that can be sold directly to end-users through online transactions.
Thus far, the effort to sell Vanderbilt technology to consumers is very small, when compared with the university's government- and foundation-sponsored research, which in 2007 passed the $500 million annual mark.
In addition, Lisa McWilliams joined McKinney's crew to market technologies and strengthen the department's communications with stakeholders within the university. She was previously a real-estate marketing coordinator in Charleston, S.C.
Also, Franklin-based Acuity Marketing Communications Inc. is developing and maintaining OTTED's new e-commerce site, dubbed VU e-Innovations. Other contractors, including Cummins Station-based Digital Dog Inc., are supporting promotional of individual VU technology products.
McKinney was elevated to his current post five years ago, upon the merger of VU's office of technology transfer and Vanderbilt University Technology Corporation (VUTC). He explained to VNC earlier this year that VUTC was a short-lived spin-out that had been previously been integrated within the university as the office of enterprise development. He said that prior to the merger in 2003, OTT was focused on the patenting-licensing & faculty service areas, while VUTC/OED's role was "to do startups and pre-seed/seed investing" in those startups. All that's now combined under the OTTED umbrella.
Under McKinney, OTTED's portfolio has grown from 15 active companies to 20, with the most recent investment and-or licensing transactions including Nashville-based Universal Robotics, which provides advanced robotic systems for the materials-handling industry; and, Birmingham-based Acuitec LLC, which provides information systems for medical operating rooms.