LSU Contributes to Nation-Wide Higher Education Effort to Share Intellectual Property with Industry to Fight COVID-19
By working with universities across the nation, LSU is helping to lead an effort to share intellectual property that could provide solutions to COVID-19, quickly and at no cost.
Institutions of higher education own significant intellectual property rights to discoveries
and innovations made through research. Most universities have dedicated offices to
manage and commercialize such rights, helping both individual researchers and collaborative
teams market and license their work to industry—either small start-ups or established
companies—which then turns it into new products or services. This practice, known
as tech transfer, is one of the primary conduits through which academic research benefits
society at large.
Last week, the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM)—with help from LSU members—issued new licensing guidelines to speed up tech transfer for innovations related to COVID-19. Since then, more than 60 US universities have signed on, agreeing to temporarily waive royalties as well as postpone some of the fine print that can be a time-consuming component of most standard licenses and agreements between universities and private companies.
“There are thousands of products on the market today that started in university laboratories.”—Andrew J. Maas
“This is about committing to implement policies that allow for rapid and wide-spread use of technologies that can solve or treat COVID-19,” said Andrew J. Maas, associate vice president of research and economic development, director of the LSU Office of Innovation & Technology Commercialization, and a newly elected member of the AUTM board where he will serve for three years. “Even if we had to cancel our AUTM business meeting in San Diego in March due to the pandemic and I couldn’t be officially inaugurated as a board member, I’m glad to have been heavily involved in the development of these new guidelines and helping to facilitate a rapid response in our global research community.”
Since Maas joined LSU in 2014, the flagship institution has seen a significant increase in invention disclosures (from 31 in 2013 to 76 in 2019), patent applications (from 15 in 2013 to 43 in 2017), and licenses (from two in 2013 to 21 in 2017). Via phone, email, and Zoom meetings, Maas and team are now engaged in efforts to commercialize and share some of the new innovations LSU has put forth since campus went remote in March: large-scale manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center; mobile decontamination units for PPE in hospitals; artificial intelligence software to help discover new drugs to treat coronavirus and lower the mortality rate; and COVID-19 vaccines ready for testing.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 challenge, we have experienced an outpouring of ideas, effort, and innovation from all corners of our campus,” said LSU Vice President of Research & Economic Development Sam Bentley. “Engineers, theatre costume designers, and physicists teamed up to build an industrial production facility for hospital protective gear from scratch in one week—that’s just one example. We want to share our ideas and capacity for the good of our communities and are proud to be cornerstone contributors to this generous nation-wide tech transfer initiative.”
The AUTM licensing guidelines have already been adopted by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities as well as the three Ivy League schools (Harvard, Stanford, and MIT) that first developed their own guidelines. They have also received support from the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), an association of research universities and institutes where David Winwood, executive director of LSU Innovation Park, serves on the committee for research security and intellectual property. Winwood helped COGR craft its own response to the AUTM guidelines, having previously served as president of AUTM.
“It’s important to recognize that our role never is to put boundaries or barriers between universities and private sector partners,” Winwood remarked. “We’re always open for business. It’s just that we’re doing everything we can right now to accelerate what we normally do to make innovations available for the public good, which may include deferring some aspects of the negotiations. We may not have to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ at this point, but perhaps leave it to later, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see changes in current tech transfer practices, such as more routine use of ‘click-through’ licenses.”
“We’re in uncharted territory,” Maas added. “It’s exciting to see the potential current activities might have in curbing the impact of COVID-19, and being involved in policy discussions at the highest levels across higher education to make it possible for industry to take some of these ideas and run with them for the benefit of all.”
“The main role for universities is to educate individuals and disseminate knowledge,” Maas continued. “Usually, this is done through lectures in classrooms, publications, and research in labs. But the biggest impact and benefit to society is sometimes achieved through commercial avenues. There are thousands of products on the market today that started in university laboratories. That’s what we’re here to help make happen.”
Maas often refers to tech transfer as a “contact sport,” where handshakes and face-to-face contact play a large role. Most of that contact must now happen online.
“Working remotely, we’re actually getting better at communicating because we have to be more deliberate in the way we do our job,” he said. “Now, I eat lunch with my family and talk to even more people.”
If you are interested in licensing LSU COVID-19 innovations during the pandemic and beyond, please contact the office of Innovation & Technology Commercialization at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LSU Office of Research & Economic Development