Being a university in Washington DC poses interesting challenges, but Georgetown University's Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak is determined to turn them into opportunities.

cover art for Beyond the Breakthrough episode 112 featuring Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak

Weirdly, being located at the heart of the US capital doesn’t always help Georgetown University when it comes to creating spinout companies. State universities often have economic development mandates that they can follow, but in Washington DC Georgetown is in something of a vacuum — with little direction for what to focus on, less set funding and fewer people pushing to advance the technologies coming out of the institution.

“How do we build those partnerships and with whom, to advance the innovations that come out of the university? And who cares about those advancements and the spinout companies that we want to bring out of the university?” — that’s the question Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak, vice-president of the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), found herself confronted with when she joined Georgetown from Rutgers University a year ago.

Litvin-Vechnyak admits she underestimated the problem, but she is finding ways to work with universities in Maryland and Virginia and creating links with federal and city officials.

One of the innovations that Litvin-Vechnyak has brought in since she joined the OTC is a highly structured — and large — internship programme. The first cohort of eight students is going through this programme right now. It’s helping Litvin-Vechnyak, who started as an intern at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, not to lose sight of what she found exciting and challenging when she first joined the profession.

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Please note that the intro and the outro, as well as the ad break, have been omitted.

Tatiana, welcome.

Thanks, Thierry, for having me on your podcast. I’ve been listening for quite some time.


Pleasure to be here.

I look forward to the conversation. I know we’ve talked over email quite a bit, but yeah, I’m looking forward to having you face to face. To start with, to set the scene a bit for our listeners, perhaps, can you give me an overview of commercialisation at Georgetown?

Commercialization at Georgetown has been active for quite some time. I think the office first got started around the year 2000. Currently, the university’s annual research expenditures are around $300m per year, and we work with the fruits of that research through managing the invention disclosures that come into the office, which is about 40 to 60 per year. We manage a portfolio of just under 300 active technologies. The licensing revenue over the past few years has been around $400,000 to $1m, and that’s down from about $7m to $8m to $9m in previous years as a result of one of the patents expiring. Looking forward to bringing it back to those numbers, or maybe more in the future.

Our IP total spend is around $700,000 to $900,000 per year, just to give the listeners the idea of some of the budget items. We do about 10 to 20 licences and options, and that’s exclusive and non-exclusive per year. And currently, we have a modest number of 12 active startups spun out around Georgetown Technologies over the years.

Okay. Good numbers to build on, I would say. And as you phrase it yourself, I think, with getting the revenues back up to the $7m to $8m.


You’re fairly new to the university. You only joined in February last year. You previously spent a decade at Rutgers. How did you first get interested in tech transfer, and what brought you to Georgetown?

Well, how did I first get interested in tech transfer? I think like many, you know, scientists with a PhD at some point got curious about other ways to apply the science background and science training. Maybe, you know, curious about not just the science, but the application and translation to the broader world and the public benefit. So, attended many career fairs and was lucky enough to go to one where actually Sadhana Chitale from NYU was a speaker along with some other folks. And they talked about technology transfer, and it seemed like a perfect fit of science and business and translation and law and policy. And that’s how I got started.

I started as an intern, actually, in the office in New Jersey at the time at the University of Medicine Dentistry of New Jersey, which is now Rutgers University. I stayed there for a couple of years and then went to Mount Sinai School of Medicine, then came back to Rutgers and stayed there growing through the ranks. And it’s been really fascinating to sort of make my way through the ranks. And while early on in the career, looking up and around and imagining how things should be, and then actually having the opportunity to implement some of that thinking and visioning, first at Rutgers and now at Georgetown. And now on the flip side, trying to remember how it was earlier on in my career and what I found frustrating or difficult or challenging or exciting, and making sure that I don’t lose sight of that as I manage the team and lead the team and inspire the team to do more better and differently.

That’s quite wise. And I think you are actually the first person who talked about kind of not losing sight of what excited them when they first joined the profession, because I think you’re absolutely right, there is a danger with experience you perhaps lose sight of what initially got you excited and the changes that you wanted to implement when you were further down in the hierarchy still.

You’ve got quite a good opportunity now. You came to Georgetown both with all of that experience and a pair of fresh eyes on the university. What was your first impression coming to Georgetown and how do you hope to build on that over the next few years?

You know, I think Georgetown is an amazing place and it’s a world-renowned university, private university, which is quite different from Rutgers, which is a very large state university of New Jersey. So Georgetown is a world-renowned university, its name is well known worldwide with a rich history and a very deep commitment to its community, both local and global, and its students and staff and beyond. As you may know, it’s very well known for its College of Arts and Sciences, Law Center, the School of Foreign Service, but what some people may not know and frankly do not know enough about is the Georgetown University Medical Center with a School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and School of Health, as well as the Lombardi Cancer Center and a Georgetown Hospital that is operated in partnership with MedStar Health. There’s a lot of amazing science and research and innovation that happens all across Georgetown and not only life sciences but also physical sciences and physics, chemistry, and computer science.

And so coming in from the outside, again from a state university where research is, you know, very prominent front and centre and advertised locally and globally and that’s one of the ways that the university attracts students and faculty, coming to Georgetown and seeing the research world, the research aspect of it, especially the science side and the medical centre side and even the main campus side, research as an opportunity to amplify the impact of that. Helping and working with faculty and researchers and innovators to bring the fruits of their research to partnerships with industry, partnerships with the local federally funded ecosystem, and then further into the entrepreneurship ecosystem and entrepreneurship and commercialisation world.

So, that was the biggest opportunity that I saw and in fact when I was interviewing one of the people that I was interviewing with said that this could be an opportunity to participate in the renaissance of research at Georgetown and that just very much piqued my interest and that’s exactly why I’m here and have found a lot of amazing opportunities in terms of engaging with faculty that are eager to engage and work with our team, find new ways to partner with industry, find new ways to amplify their own research and partner with others as well as other people in the community.

I want to get back to the local community and ecosystem in a second but I want to ask you about Georgetown University being in Washington DC, which is a unique geopolitical context both within the US as being the capital and your political centre, but also on a world stage. How, if at all, does that reality impact the office that you work in?

That’s a very interesting question and one that I think I underestimated and you know found surprising. I’ll explain why. So again just sort of drawing the parallel between Rutgers being the state university where you know there’s a mandate of economic development and working closely in partnership with the governor’s office, Georgetown being a private university and with schools like the Law Center in the School of Foreign Service and the undergraduate college being one of the main focuses, it’s been interesting to understand how we plug into the geopolitical ecosystem that we exist in. So we don’t have the governor’s office that has the economic development mandate for Georgetown University.

What does that mean? How do we build those partnerships and with who to advance the innovations that come out of the university and who cares about those advancements and the spinout companies that we want to bring out of the university?

So we’re surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. Maryland and Virginia do have those state ecosystems and sort of state mandates. Obviously Washington DC also has an economic development interest and a group responsible for that but the focus has not been so much on university-based inventions and so that’s an opportunity that I have been actively exploring together with our federal relations and city government relations office together with other universities in the area.

So Washington DC has a number of great universities. There’s George Washington in the neighbourhood, American University, Howard University. I’m sure there are others that I’m not mentioning and then there are also others just across the river, University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins and then in Virginia with George Mason University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and a lot of amazing partnership opportunities that have been made and are still underway with those organisations as well.

And then of course there is the NSF, the NIH, the FDA right around the corner where people are eager to come in person and give presentations and engage with our researchers. There’s this almost like a hunger to connect in person and share knowledge and get others excited about whatever it is, either the programmes that they have to offer and make sure that others are making use of them or help through whatever the challenges that may be.

We also have the USPTO around the corner and so that’s also been another great opportunity to engage and we hope to have them on campus soon and regularly after that talking to our researchers and researchers and innovators from other institutions. We’re actually planning an event early February with colleagues in the area from other universities and hope to do more of that, bringing the community together and solving the problems that we’re all having or the questions that we all have together.

Yeah. You very neatly managed to answer my next question as well about what you’re kind of hoping to build across the kind of broader ecosystem. I think it’s quite interesting because I wouldn’t have thought of Washington DC as a startup ecosystem. It certainly wouldn’t have been mentioned for me in the kind of Boston and Stanford leagues. But hearing you talk about it, I have a feeling that it very much is on its way there and that’s really quite exciting, I think.

Thierry, I’m actually smiling. You know, the listeners can’t see this because you mentioned the two North stars that I have in mind as I think about where I’m going, and that’s Stanford and Boston. I don’t know that we need to necessarily replicate those two amazing places, but having, for example, watched the transformation of Boston over the past 20 years, I think a lot of the same ingredients are actually in the Washington DC ecosystem. There are some, you know, they’re missing, like that state support, but why can’t we forge partnerships with Maryland and with Virginia because some of the startups that would start within Washington DC and bring some of those early job opportunities to the Washington DC community would then graduate, if you will, to the neighbouring states, Maryland and Virginia. And that’s okay, and that will be of benefit to those two states.

So if we could only all work together across the DMV region — DC, Maryland, Virginia — I think that would be of great benefit to everyone. There are certainly lots of companies, biotech, pharma companies in the area that could benefit from the workforce and the students and interns and the science and technology that exists in the area. So it’s definitely an amazing area, and I think there’s a lot of tremendous potential, especially post-covid, as the way we work and occupy space in cities changes.

So I think it’s a time of an amazing opportunity for Washington DC and this region.

Yeah, definitely a place to closely watch, especially if you’re an investor as well.

There’s only one more thing that I want to mention, you know, in terms of Georgetown, sort of the opportunity and where we’re going a little bit. Some of the relationships that we have been building also internally within the university, I think, have been really incredible and very helpful and going very well. One of them is with the business school. The business school has a Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, and they focus mainly on entrepreneurship training and support for undergraduate students, alumni, graduate students, mostly business students. And so we are now partnering and working closely to leverage the programmes that they have and the networks that they have for faculty researchers, because spinning out companies around science and technology is quite different from some of the undergraduate startups and spinouts and requires a different group, a team that would guide along the way and invest in those companies and provide funding for those companies. So we’re collaborating closely to build that programming and build that mentoring capacity. And that is actually going to be done through an Economic Development Authority grant that we have recently received. So we applied to this competitive programme. It was only the second federal grant I’ve ever applied to. So I’m thrilled to say that we were successful to get it and hope to use that to build programs around that.

And then one other office and one other team that I think is really critical is the Alumni Relations Office or the Advancement Office. That’s one thing that’s been incredible at Georgetown. The group of alumni from all the different schools, undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral programs that are happy to engage with the university and figure out how to stay involved and sort of give back. So we’re leveraging that desire and trying to make good use of it and make it beneficial and rewarding to both sides.

Amazing. Congrats on securing that federal grant as well. That’s very exciting.

I want to take a closer look at some of the things that you do in your office specifically, perhaps starting with interns because you mentioned that you started out as an intern as well. Can you tell me a little bit about the internship programme at Georgetown?

I love interns and fellows. That’s actually one of my, I don’t know, one of many programmes that we have and one of my favourite. There’s just something to it, to be working with somebody who is really curious and early on in their career and they’re trying to figure out what to do next and how to do it best. So Office of Technology Commercialization at Georgetown has had an internship programme for some time. They would take interns from different master’s programmes or PhD programmes where those folks would get credit for the work that they would do with us, but it was kind of ad hoc. So they would reach out to the office, engage with the office, do some work and then sort of fall off.

And we decided to do a more comprehensive programme that would be more structured. So the way that we do it now is we have a training portion of the programme with sort of lecture style portion of it, about six classes where we provide some basic and training. We have recorded that at this point so we can catch people up if they come in later in the programme.

We try to do it as a cohort because then they can interact with each other. Everybody sort of gets the same training at the same time. And then we divide them and assign them to different folks in the office. Somebody’s interested in marketing, they will be assigned to a marketing person. Somebody’s interested more in IP management, they would be working with somebody more on that. Somebody’s interested in getting involved more with licensing or business discussions, we can give them that opportunity.

So this more structured programme is in its first year at Georgetown. We’re in the midst of our first cohort. I think we have about eight interns right now, which I believe is the biggest number that we’ve ever had. And it’s a mix of different students. We’ve made it open to graduate students, master’s-level and PhD-level students and postdocs. But also, we’ve had a couple of students from the science and communications master’s programme, and would love to have some law students as well. So as we build capacity and sort of figure out the best process for this programme, we’ll make sure that it’s open to more. We also have a business student in the programme as well.

Amazing. I don’t have the numbers for every internship programme in my head. But eight does sound like quite a big number for any institution. Quite often people have one, two, three. So managing a cohort of eight, I think is quite impressive. And I quite like that they even shadow someone in marketing, say, which is perhaps not what you would traditionally think of if someone shows interest in tech transfer.

Every aspect of what we do has a lot of different angles and different levels of depth. And what I encourage people in my team is to have regular contact with our interns, standing meetings at least once a week, so that we’re constantly checking in with each other. How is it going? Do you continue to have interest in this space? Or would you like to have experience more in depth somewhere else? With the goal being that they really identify where their strengths are and what they’re most interested in, and yet get exposure in other areas as well. So internship and fellowship programmes are all about getting experience and helping yourself get the flavour of what that world is like. And so we try to make sure that we provide that opportunity.

When it comes to researchers that you work with, or perhaps even the startups, what kind of support do you do offer them currently? And what kind of programmes do you hope to build in the future for them?

There’s a lot of future thinking right now. And right now the programmes that we have are largely around informational sessions that we have on a regular basis about intellectual property and commercialisation, working with our researchers if they have an invention, understanding the IP space, how do we make decisions about whether or not to file a patent application or not, engaging them with our outside counsel when we’re making decisions about prosecution.

Because I believe that all of that is a learning opportunity for everyone, frankly, and especially for scientists that are mainly thinking about the science and less so, you know, how to respond to a particular examiner’s rejection that puts together several pieces of prior art.

But as they go through that process a few times, next time that they think about a new invention, they’re going to keep that in mind, and they’re going to keep in mind how potentially an examiner will use the different pieces of prior art, potentially, you know, to reject something. And then as, you know, many tech transfer offices are realising now, licensing to existing companies is more challenging, considering how early stage university inventions are, and so we have to build capacity to de-risk a lot of our inventions, either ourselves or in partnership with early-stage companies through spinout creation. So a lot of the focus going forward, especially with the EDA grant, will be on building accelerated type programs that will have the classroom component and the mentorship component.

You know, being in the DMV area, and frankly, you know, beyond, we have an amazing group of willing participants and alumni, and especially with Zoom, it’s much easier now to engage with people, even if they’re not in the immediate DMV area. And we’re in the process of engaging them in a way that would be, like I said, meaningful for both. So the hope for the future is that we will build effective accelerator-type programmes that we’ll be able to take in and build teams around ideas that we can advance either to building a development plan or spinning out a company and connecting them with investors that are sort of ready to go, either to provide feedback on how to make an idea better, to do due diligence on a particular project to make it better and more attractive to any partner. I believe that we all have to be patient with this process because not every project will go to become, you know, the most amazing next spinout company.

But regardless of that, I think it will be a valuable process that will train our researchers to think about use-inspired research just a little bit more, which I think will be beneficial.


I think one of the main challenges remains with business founders. Finding people that are willing to do the difficult work of this support of a NewCo, early-stage, and yet having the right experience, having done that, or maybe assembling a team where there’s somebody who’s part-time that is incredibly experienced and have done this many times in many exits, and then there’s somebody working alongside them that has the drive and the time to do what needs to be done. And obviously, the scientist, also an incredibly important role, needs to be a willing participant at sort of just the right level to help it be a success, but also know when to step back when appropriate.

Yeah, a challenge that I think pretty much everyone has. Probably also at MIT and Stanford, that’s probably also still an issue for them.

Do you currently track engagement in terms of equity, diversity, and inclusion, or is that on the cards?

Excellent question. We don’t currently have a way to track, but we will because we need to, and we need to for a number of obvious reasons. We need to understand what the baseline is, we need to know where we want to go and how to change that baseline, and then we need to implement specific activities to move the needle in the right direction. We’ve yet to sort of figure out how to do that in the right way with the right tone when asking for the demographics, for example, of the people attending our events or engaging with us, because obviously, you know, there’s still in many instances that reaction, “Well, why do I need to provide that information? How is that going to benefit or hurt me?”

And so making people comfortable with that question, I think, is really important. The university does track a lot of that information in general, and so we’re planning on leveraging other offices that do collect that information so that we don’t have to keep asking the same questions, but we can somehow in the background, in the right way, make use of that information for the purposes of improving our programmes and making them more balanced, if you will.

How does your own office fare in terms of representation? Perhaps an easier question to look at your colleagues and make an assessment.

Excellent question. So diversity is an incredibly important aspect for me personally and always has been. As a woman, I’ve been always aware of that from a personal standpoint. Our own office is actually a majority of women at this point, and when I joined, it was majority women. We had one gentleman who is a member of the team. We currently have one and looking forward to bringing on board one more.

In terms of backgrounds, very diverse. We have people from many different countries from across the world with different scientific training, business, legal, etc. And I can absolutely see that come into play in terms of the way that people bring ideas forward, and I find that very useful and helpful to the way the team moves forward.

Is diversity a consideration when you select the cohort of interns? Or is that more of a “you take what you can get” at this point?

I think the interns has been quite a diverse group. But I can tell you that any time that, for example, I don’t know, let’s say when we’re thinking about speakers that we want to have, or applicants to something that we’re doing, if I see that we’re only getting sort of a certain type of an applicant, then we have the conversation, well, how can we reach others? How do we make sure that we’re reaching a broader group so that we have diverse pool of applicants and participants? And I think that is a really important thing to do at every step, especially when we have a panel of speakers at an annual AUTM meeting, just being mindful of who does the audience see, because whoever the audience sees, that will be sort of the perception that they will have, and the filter through which they will see the conversation.

Yeah, that’s a good point actually. And I know what a struggle it can be to find a diverse panel, because so often you get the men that say yes, and I’ve often had it that the women feel, not rightfully, but they sometimes feel that they are not qualified, and sometimes it can take asking a few times, which you have to be willing to do, and I think I am, and hopefully more and more people are willing to make that effort. But yeah, it is a struggle sometimes still.

I don’t want to talk too much about Rutgers because obviously you are at Georgetown now, but one of the interesting things that you did do when you were at Rutgers is the university merged, I think as you mentioned earlier, with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. That meant that the patent policy had to be reworked because suddenly you had one institution with two legacy policies. Can you tell me a little bit about this process and how that went?

It was a walk in the park, Thierry, really, no trouble at all.

Perfect. Next question.

Let’s see. I think that took about 10 years to accomplish. You know, obviously both universities were very large universities, and there was a lot to do at the time of the merger and post-merger, and things took a while. The IP policy had to be worked on together with two faculty unions, one for Legacy UMDNJ and one for Rutgers, or legacy UMDNJ and Rutgers faculty.

You know, at first it wasn’t a priority in general because I think the university knew that there were other things that were more critical to accomplish, and then there were a couple of goes at it that weren’t successful right away. And then I think one of the things that ultimately was successful is the careful look at other institutions and providing that sort of in a summary format to the leadership of the university and the faculty unions, and talking to the representatives of the faculty unions and sharing with them, “Well, this is how other universities structure their IP policy, and let’s modernise the Rutgers patent policy and take best practices from a number of different institutions and have best-in-class modern Rutgers IP policy”.

And really what was amazing is sort of figuring out the right words, literally, to use in those conversations, in conversations with faculty, faculty unions, university leadership, and then synthesising that into a document that would be palatable to all. And I actually worked with an amazing outside attorney who is really experienced with writing policies and university policies specifically, and I think that was one of the keys to success.

We ultimately didn’t end up with exactly what I was looking for, for a number of reasons, but certainly ended up with a much improved policy. Before the merger of the policies, we had two faculty sort of sides that received different personal distributions. On the one side, it was between 25% and 28%, and on the other side, it was 35%. So you could have people at the same institution collaborating on an invention, and then revenue would come in, and one of them would receive 35% of the revenue from the licensing, and then the other one would get 25% to 28%. You know, that was challenging, but at the same time, giving that as an example to both the unions and the university leadership was an example why that needs to be updated as soon as possible was very helpful.

So it really wasn’t a walk in the park, but it was a great process, and learning how to navigate the union environment, all the stakeholders, learning how to speak their language, being sensitive to what’s important to them was great.

I can imagine that it was a really good learning experience, even if you possibly wish that it wouldn’t have taken as long as you expected. That is a completely understandable feeling.

Following on from that, then, perhaps, what are some of the changes that you’ve seen over the course of your career to date?

Well, let’s see. So I think just in general, recognition and excitement around innovation. In the US, we universities refer to ourselves as innovation engines, and many of us are going to think hard about what does that really mean, and does that align with the way that the world sees us, the industry sees us, the federal funders, the taxpayers, and how do we make sure that we deliver on that process? And that includes things like communicating and publicising and celebrating our successes, being, frankly, humble in our business negotiations, and understanding what our inventions bring to the table.

Sometimes it’s phenomenal and breakthrough, sometimes it’s phenomenal and breakthrough but early stage, and understanding the follow-on investment that might be required, or navigating the challenging regulatory process that might be required. And so, at least through my own sort of personal evolution in this tech transfer space, and how I view others in the tech transfer space, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve seen, is this reckoning of sort of all of that, and understanding how it all fits into the big picture, and how to make it better.

You know, in New Jersey, BioNJ has a slogan of, “Because the patients can’t wait.” And if we really think about that, to me that means that maybe our negotiations on both sides can’t take a year to do, because we’re fighting for top dollar over everything. And that has to be done by both sides, not just universities, but industry as well. This sort of critical thinking and self- awareness and self-analysis, I think is one thing that at least I’ve observed. I think the professional development is one that can be seen through best practice sharing on a regular basis. I think annual AUTM meetings are phenomenal, and I encourage everyone to attend. I enjoy them very much, and try to send as many of my team members always, as many as possible, because I believe in the value of that network, and the value of learning from your peers, and exchanging best practices very much. I think those are a couple of things.

And then also, I think something that many talk about, the fact that we’re not just doing the IP protection or licensing anymore. We’re doing partnering, and we’re doing the fundraising alongside of our startup companies, and we’re doing the training of the students, and training of faculty. So it’s just become a lot more multifaceted, I think, even more so than it was before.

Yeah. You mentioned AUTM there. You are on the AUTM board as of, I think, last February as well. What prompted you to get more actively involved in the organisation?

Sense of community, for sure. And as I mentioned, the place where best practices are shared, and therefore we’re all becoming better at our jobs. And meeting people that are phenomenal, and open, has been incredibly inspiring to me. I absolutely love that community.

What prompted me to get on the board is a different question. That was Laura Savatski, who did the outreach, and it was quite persistent, suggesting that I apply. And then, you know, to my great surprise and amazement, the fact that I was one of the people who won the election. And I think that was probably because of the community and the network that I’ve built over the years, and been open to engaging with, and sharing with. And so hopefully that helped just people recognise it, or maybe it’s my long name, you know, it’s kind of a unique name, and maybe people just recognised it and decided to vote for me. But it’s been an amazing experience.

The board is… The way that it operates, and the way that we all engage with each other, and have a lot of respect for each other, and the sense of responsibility for AUTM itself, and what we can do for the community broadly, has been tremendous.

Yeah. I’m sure it wasn’t just your unique name. And I say that with a slightly more unusual last name myself.

Is there something that you wish the general public knew about tech transfer?

Well, I wish they would be inspired by what transpires as much as we do. I keep telling my family and everyone around me that I think I have the most interesting job in the world, frankly. It’s this intersection of all these different areas. Again, science, business, law, policy, commercialisation, entrepreneurship, being on the cutting edge of innovation and science is absolutely fascinating. So it’s everything from engaging with interns, to doing deals with industry, to talking to scientists about their discovery. One of my favourite things is when we receive a new invention disclosure, we always have a conversation with the researcher. And the first question for me is always, “Can you tell me about your invention in your own words?”

As they talk about their discovery, they’re excited. They love talking about science and their research specifically. Just settling into this conversation for me is one of the most, I don’t know, magical things, frankly. I know this may sound a little funny, but I love it. And then I love asking questions. And even though I definitely do not understand their science at the depth that they have, some of the questions that we ask as we do the due diligence and try to understand the IP and commercialisation opportunity are similar across different industries. And so even though I may not be an expert in X science, I can still ask questions that help the process.

And then the other thing is, the reality is that what we all do is incredibly difficult, and failure is quite frequent. But what I wish the public and the participants in the process, scientists and innovators, would know is that every failure is an experience, a very valuable experience, and it’s a major learning opportunity. And this sounds a bit cliché, but it really is true. But what’s important is for all of us to be open, to accept that as a likely possibility.

And whenever I talk to researchers, I try to tell them that this process may not work the first time. In fact, probably won’t work the first, second, or third time. But it will be a good experience along the way, and we will all come out more knowledgeable, and how great is that?

Yeah, at some point it will work. Speaking of, can you give me some examples of some Georgetown technologies that have worked?

Well, the whole body CT scanner was invented at Georgetown in the 1950s.

Huh, I did not know that. That’s cool.

Yep, so that’s one example. The other one is Allegra, the allergy medication, also came out of Georgetown. It was actually a metabolite of one of the predecessor drugs that had some negative side effects that the researchers were trying to get away from. And the researcher in the Med Center at Georgetown discovered that one of the metabolites actually doesn’t have the negative side effect, and that compound went on to become Allegra.

And then there are others. One of the first cancer vaccines, the HPV vaccine, so the important components of that were discovered at Georgetown as well. And there are many, many more discoveries that are currently underway in the product development pipelines of our partners, and we hope to update our website soon with that information for the world to know, and for our internal community to know as well.

I will put a link to your website in the show notes as well, so people can easily find it. We are sadly out of time. Is there anything else that you wanted people to know before we say goodbye?

Perhaps a call to action to the tech transfer community, the knowledge transfer community. What I would like us to do is to do even more best practice sharing. Some have done this tremendously well, for example Orin and other colleagues at Columbia and other institutions recently put together a term sheet that was approved, you know, for spinout companies, that was approved by other academic institutions and industry and investors, and they literally put it out there for everyone to use as they wish. And it’s been tremendously helpful for my team, and I am sure other teams as well, to avoid some of the, you know, saying negotiations that we’ve had over, you know, certain things. And if we could do more of that, for example, mentorship programmes that we’re trying so desperately to build right now at Georgetown.

I’m sure that there are other institutions that have built programmes and have done this well. It would be fantastic to actually have access to some of the programmes and SOPs and maybe even, I don’t know, some training material.

A lot of our programs are federally funded through the EDA, through the NSF, and why can’t we have some sort of a repository, you know, maybe scrub the name of the university if that makes people feel a bit more comfortable. But just so that instead of reinventing the wheel, we can build on the work that others have done, the same way that the scientific community does that for the publications that they put out regularly with detailed data and results. I think that would be very helpful, and I would very much appreciate others doing that.

I know, again, many other institutions do that, but if we could have some sort of a central repository of such things, I think that would be very helpful.

I think that is a very good call to action. US-BOLT, it’s called, the term sheet, if anyone wants to look that up. I’m sure it’s on the AUTM website somewhere as well, but hopefully Google Search will find that pretty quickly.

Tatiana, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. It’s been a huge pleasure, and I’m glad we did find the time in the end to make this happen.

Thank you. It’s really been great. I enjoyed it as well, and it’s been an honour. Thank you.

Thierry Heles

Thierry Heles is the editor of Global University Venturing, host of the Beyond the Breakthrough interview podcast and responsible for the monthly GUV Gazette (sign up here for free).