Startups

Johns Hopkins made an inventor’s guide to help its technologists commercialize. But it can help others, too

The Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures-created guide aims to dispel misconceptions about the process of commercialization. But ED Christy Wyskiel says that its use-value doesn't begin and end with JHU staff or students.

Inside the Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures' FastForward innovation hub, where the Social Impact Lab is also housed.

(Courtesy photo)

With the support of its homegrown Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV), Baltimore’s oldest private university has helped many of its own students and faculty bring their technological innovations to market — and with wildly successful results. Now, JHTV has a new guide to make the process even easier for those within and beyond its namesake school’s community to understand.

The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Inventor’s Guide offers 18 pages of content explaining such processes as technology transfer (defined as “the movement of knowledge and discoveries from the research setting to the public”), intellectual property, patents, conflicts of interest and more. It also specifies how exactly these processes work for JHU students and scholars, the latter of whom JHTV Executive Director Christy Wyskiel identified as the guide’s primary audience.

“I think this was really written with a faculty member in mind, particularly a faculty member who may not have been through all the parts of the puzzle,” she told Technical.ly. “This is a long journey, to take a remarkable and innovative discovery in your lab and bring it to a product that is going to help everyday people.”

Wyskiel added that this document can especially serve those newer faculty who may have spent years buried in research, discovered something groundbreaking, and simply don’t know exactly what to do with it. She also said that graduate students might also find this explainer useful. To that end, the Inventor’s Guide breaks down some confusing aspects myths about the tech transfer process that JHTV staff, as Wyskiel wrote in the guide’s introduction, “hope to dispel.”

One of those myths, Wyskiel noted, involves intellectual property for inventions that JHU employees create. As she explained, inventions created by a JHU employee and based on their research — “even if it’s [developed] when you’re on vacation” — technically belong to the university. That said, the guide also breaks down the inventor’s benefits during the commercialization process, through which that inventor personally receives 35% of licensing revenue; another 15% of that revenue goes back into the creator’s lab to subsidize future research. In addition, JHTV pays for patenting process expenses.

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Christy Wyskiel. (Courtesy photo)

“We spend millions a year filing and continuing patents with the purpose of commercializing, but we don’t do it just to protect and hoard,” Wyskiel said. “We do it to facilitate someone who will license and then spend the money to develop these products, because without that patent, they won’t spend the money to get a return on their investment.”

Despite this primary intention for a private university community that JHTV already serves, Wyskiel said that the Inventor’s Guide can also offer a model and path to engagement for other universities, corporate partners, licensees, investors and others in the broader tech ecosystem.

“A lot of this is not specific to Johns Hopkins, but is specific to the world of university tech transfer,” she said. “I think a big part of this is broad accessibility within the 55,000-employee Johns Hopkins community, but also throughout Baltimore — UMB, the entire University System of Maryland, for example, or others. Is there a way that some of this legwork is done so that others can benefit from it? Absolutely.”

Wyskiel, a seasoned founder and entrepreneur who has been a senior advisor to JHU President Ronald Daniels and led JHTV since 2014, added that she and her colleagues drew from a mix of best practices, years of stakeholder feedback and other sources when developing the Inventor’s Guide.

“These topics have come up, over and over and over, to my attention, to the attention of others on my leadership team to the folks throughout JHTV to say, ‘Well, these continue to be nuts that are hard to crack,'” she said. “‘And is there a way we can better explain them?'”

Read the full guide -30-
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