28 November 2014

November newsletter in 60 seconds

The lights of Oxford and Cambridge University might shine brightest, but there is more than a flicker of success at other academic institutions in the UK. One of those, the University of Manchester, boasts 25 Nobel Prize winners and has housed academic masterminds such as Alan Turing, the mathematician who deciphered the Nazis’ notorious Enigma coding network.

At the institution, the University of Manchester Intellectual Property (UMIP) is tasked with commercialising the best research. In this issue of the LSIPR monthly newsletter we speak to Dr Rich Ferrie, head of UMIP, about its work and some of the challenges it faces.

When I attended the CIPA Life Sciences Conference near Birmingham in November, one tech transfer specialist told me she faces two big hurdles. First, she said, there is a much higher staff turnover at universities than in big pharmaceutical or biotechnological companies. And second, she explained, there can be less structure at academic institutions working to commercialise their research, meaning some of the best work gets lost.

But there is another problem. Probably the biggest challenge for UMIP, Ferrie tells us, is that enthusiastic academics want to be the first to publish their research. This is hardly surprising—academics are known to be competitive—but it means UMIP has to temper these desires by ensuring their work is patented before it becomes public.

If you would like to know how a university with 40,000 students and 3,500 academic staff, half of whom work in the life sciences field, seeks to turn stellar research into patent protection and in turn a healthy revenue stream, then read on.

The latest product in the UMIP pipeline is a smartphone app called ClinTouch, which helps people suffering from psychosis to record the occurrence of symptoms. And it needs an industry partner.

Ed Conlon, Group editor

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