Technology transfer is the process of taking existing knowledge, facilities or capabilities developed under research and development and using these findings to fulfil public and/or private needs. Essentially, technology transfer brings scientific and research findings to the marketplace. There are several technology transfer organizations and offices operating in Alberta, on both a federal and provincial level. The mandate of these offices is to assist inventors to protect, manage and profit from their inventions. Technology transfer is concerned with ensuring individuals intellectual property and maximizing the profit for the holders of this property.
U of A Shares Knowledge And a Few DiseasesThrough Tech
The recent spread of several vicious micro-organismsincluding West Nile virus, Ebola and Anthraxcan be traced back to activity four years ago in a second-floor office on the University of Alberta campus. About 100 diseases are now being shared internationally, thanks to the work done by the former Industry Liaison Office (ILO). But the University is not concerned. In fact, they are pleased with the national media attention attracted by this "outbreak."
Thats because trading cards depicting the diseases, not the actual microbes, are being shared among doctors, med students and instructors across North America. The educational tool, called MicrobeCards, uses the popular format of sports trading cards to teach the complexities of medical microbiology to University students.
Dr. Mark Peppler, an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Alberta, developed the novel teaching tool to provide an informative and effective way for university students to learn about more than 100 microbes and their related diseases. He developed two prototype sets to test with nursing students over a year. Then he sought the assistance of the ILO (now called the Research Services Office) to secure intellectual property issues, market the cards to potential publishers and finalize contracts when a deal is reached.
ASM Buys into RSO-Pitched Idea
After a couple of unsuccessful pitches to sports trading card makers, the technology transfer manager won the interest of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The ASM Press decided to deviate from their regular business of focusing on textbooks, to publish a first print run of 5,000 sets of MicrobeCards. Even before the cards were shipped to the suppliers, the first run was
20% sold. Card retailers now range from campus bookstores to Amazon.com, and Dr. Peppler is working on the sequel set of nasty microbes.
"It was certainly not the typical technology file we are used to working on," says Bernadette Oreski, the Manager of the Health Sciences Technology Transfer Team, and project leader for MicrobeCards at the Research Services Office (RSO). "But its still a good example of our work to protect IP, market the technology and facilitate the deal."
Its also a good example of the University sharing knowledge through commercialization, which is frequently the best way to share ideas with society.
The RSOs Technology Transfer Group helps U of A researchers evaluate inventions and discoveries that may have commercial potential. They help protect intellectual property, through information or assistance in patent filing or through trademarks, trade secrets or copyrights. Two teams
-- one dedicated to health sciences and the other responsible for the natural sciences help market the innovations with the aim to license a technology to an existing company. A third team -- the Spin-off Company Development Team -- works with the inventors to form a new company based entirely on the invention, if that appears to be the most effective route to commercialization.
Courtesy of Research Services Office, University of Alberta, June 2003.