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Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

By Lloyd Marks posted 07-28-2020 11:25

From my experience, I have concluded that university technology transfer offices do not spend adequate time and resources assessing the commercial potential of university based inventions. University technology managers don't like to hear it, but the AUTM database reveals just how small the royalties generated by university based IP are. The budgets for technology assessment are small and unfortunately  "you get what you pay for." For example, some universities have told me that I can review technology for them but that I am limited to just a few hours of research, hardly enough to make a meaningful determination of commercial viability.

Of course, the classic example of this was SUNY Stony Brook not patenting MRI which was developed by Paul Lauterbur when he was a faculty member there in the mid 1980's (he went on to leave Stony Brook - bitterly - and to win a Nobel Prize for his work).  The SUNY tech transfer office sat on it for almost a year but failed to make the connection between imaging nuts and bolts floating in jello and diagnostic medical imaging. They then returned the IP to Dr. Lauterbur who scurried about trying to file a patent but failed to meet the one year deadline. The IP went into the public domain and many companies made a lot of money -- but not SUNY and not Dr. Lauterbur. To date approximately 50,000 MRI machines have been sold for an approximate gross income of $50 trillion - not to mention all the income derived from performing and interpreting MRI studies.

And another point - there is often commercializable university IP, but the form factor is not ideal and needs to be looked at carefully by a consultant. 

I am a pediatric cardiologist (I have been both in academic and private practice), an inventor with 22 medical device patents, electrical engineer, MBA, and entrepreneur with a startup company (MGI Medical, LLC) based on one of my inventions (my CV is at Since I speak the vocabulary of engineering, medicine and business I give advice to inventors, investors in medical technology, academic institutions and corporations considering introducing new medical technology.I implore university technology managers to spend more time, money and effort evaluating university based technology. I go into this in greater detail at