Discovery to Development PhD Careers in Industry – Commercialization and Tech Transfer (Article 3)

BY: THOMAS R. COUGHLIN, PHD

This article highlights PhD careers in commercialization
and technology transfer.

In Article 1 we reviewed the path of discovery to development with the key industries that play a role on the way. In Article 2 we outlined the role of government, nonprofit, charities, and publication companies in this process. We also listed careers for PhDs in these areas. In this article we continue and highlight careers for PhDs in Commercialization and Technology Transfer.


Technology Transfer / Commercialization

The organization of technology transfer and commercialization departments are different between universities. According to a Venture Associate at Princeton University, the field of tech transfer has seen a lot of growth in recent years as more universities begin to invest more money in encouraging entrepreneurship and commercialization among faculty and students. In addition, universities are adding entrepreneurial labs (E-Labs) to their undergraduate department structures as the entrepreneurial buzz becomes a more attractive career pursuit. Having some level of support system for students is becoming a more popular trend. Therefore, really robust tech transfer and commercialization offices like U Penn, NYU, and Mount Sinai, to name a few, maintain a large support staff given the large number of patentable discoveries that are occurring in these institutions. These programs may maintain a staff size that is 10 : 1 larger in ratio to a university without a medical school or a university that is more liberal arts focused.

Intellectual Property

If a professor or lab “strikes gold” by finding a targetable mechanism for treating a disease, like at NYU for instance, where Remicade was first patented, then the University pursues legal activities seeking intellectual property rights. 

Early Adherence to Regulatory Bodies 

Within Technology Transfer / Commercialization Offices, PhDs will help professors develop their drug, device, or biotechnology by outlining the proper next steps in pursuing exclusivity. In addition, other PhDs in technology transfer offices will outline the proper next steps including early adherence to good manufacturing processes, animal testing, and clinical trials. Having an active Tech Transfer office prevents downstream regulatory issues when working to gain approval with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

LLC or Corporation Creation

PIs can incorporate the drug and create a company and do their own trials or Tech Transfer / commercialization offices can help transfer these into companies. If they create their own company they would be eligible for grants through the Small Business Innovation Research program, which is a U.S. government entity that promotes small business.

Entry Level Careers for PhDs in Tech Transfer or Commercialization

  • New Venture Associates or Innovation Specialists work within Tech Transfer offices assisting with taking a discovery and turning it into a patented drug or device
  • Marketing Specialists support Tech Transfer offices by marketing the science in the academic institution to the community to increase community engagement. Not all Universities have these. Mount Sinai has one
  • University Venture Fund Consultants are positions that choose research within the university to support using money generated from the academic institution’s previous royalties

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Need a guide for exploring career options? Take a look at our previous article, “Dating Your Career.”

Unsure if you should consider Careers outside academics? Take a look at “Self Diagnosing Your PhD or Postdoc – Assess for Success.”

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