A technology transfer training and mentoring program for postdoctoral students at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is increasing T2 engagement with the laboratory as well as expanding career options for the trainees.
The Technology Transfer Ambassadors Program (TTAP) has made a significant impact on technology transfer efforts across NCI and increased internal engagement so much that the 2020 program is being offered and adopted across the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
TTAP offers professional development in invention analysis, commercialization and entrepreneurship. Over one year, five to eight hours per week of TTAP training augments each postdoc’s research activities.
TTAP has received positive feedback and results since it was first implemented in 2016. However, to further enhance the experience, organizers conducted surveys throughout the program and exit interviews with all Ambassadors at the end of each year. Based on Ambassador feedback, the entire training curriculum of TTAP was restructured for 2019.
The 2019 TTAP curriculum included a new “Technology Transfer Boot Camp,” a series of intensive hands-on training sessions to kick-start the program and equip Ambassadors with skills immediately applicable to their T2 training. Additionally, the program organizers developed a “Perfecting Your Pitch” workshop and “Pitch Practice” sessions for Ambassadors to learn how to effectively communicate a technology’s value to a business audience.
During the boot camp, Ambassadors go through the T2 process and receive training in targeted marketing, commercial analysis, invention analysis and patenting decision-making. Subject matter experts — such as federal economic development professionals, investors, entrepreneurs and a communications consultant — share experiences and insights that Ambassadors would not otherwise encounter. After the boot camp, T2 managers and Ambassadors meet monthly for in-depth discussions of T2 topics.
The conclusions from the Ambassador’s analyses broadened another lab’s perspective on NCI technologies and formed the basis for submission to a seed-investment program.
These TTAP components supplement an Ambassador’s technology transfer training with networking, discovery-to-market knowledge, communication skills and the opportunity to apply those skills.
Successful outcomes include multiple invention disclosures and transactional agreements initiated by Ambassadors, dozens of analyses and presentations informing NIH patent investment decisions, and improved marketing campaigns for NIH technologies.
One Ambassador used skills gained in TTAP training (competitive analysis, effective communication, etc.) to triage his research for a prospective new invention. The Ambassador submitted an invention disclosure to NCI’s Technology Transfer Center, and patent protection was pursued.
During another Ambassador’s T2 training, a competitive market analysis was conducted for active NCI technologies outside the Ambassador’s field of expertise. The conclusions from the Ambassador’s analyses broadened another lab’s perspective on NCI technologies and formed the basis for submission to a seed-investment program.
TTAP is career-influencing. Since participating in the program, multiple Ambassadors have transitioned their careers into technology transfer and related professions such as patent agents, clinical and corporate contract resource managers at universities, and federal health science analysts.
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