Daily Democrat Online - UCD entomologist speaks on stifled research

Daily Democrat Online - UCD entomologist speaks on stifled research: "UCD entomologist speaks on stifled research
More focus on making money than on improving health and environment
Daily Democrat
Article Created: 11/23/2007 06:18:25 AM PST

University bureaucracies stifle research when they focus more on generating revenue than in fulfilling a public obligation to improve human health and the environment.

"That's a growing viewpoint of many interested in the technology transfer field," said UC Davis entomologist Bruce Hammock, who served as one of the speakers at the recent National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences conference at the Berry Hill Plantation, South Boston, Va.

The two-day conference addressed a deepening concern among the multiple National Institutes of Health and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences:

How to translate basic research effectively to improve human health and the environment.

The academic culture is "wonderful for innovation and training, but university bureaucracies are incompatible with translation," said Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology who directs the UCD Superfund Basic Research Program of NIEHS.

Speaking on "Universities' Focus on Revenue Generation in Licensing Stifles Innovation: The Case to Modify the Bayh-Doles Act," Hammock said that "We as a nation have developed the most powerful innovation factory in human history but universities are poor at moving public
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sector innovation into the private sector for development and implementation."

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, co-authored by Sens. Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) and Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kansas), turned over the licenses for federally funded research projects to universities, but "an unintended consequence of this act was the generation of university technology transfer offices or TTOs," Hammock said.

The Kauffman Foundation, which Hammock described as "the largest entrepreunal 'think tank' in the United States," issued a report in April that said TTOs "have become gatekeepers" and "that in many cases, constrain the flow of inventions and frustrate faculty, entrepreneurs and industries."

The Kauffman Foundation report said the Bayh-Dole Act was intended "to speed up the process of moving technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace by clearing the way for universities to claim legal and, therefore, financial rights to federal government-funded innovations developed by their faculty. However, new layers of administration developed that centralized the process, narrowed the view of innovation as only patents, and emphasized revenue generation rather than volume of innovations the university commercializes."

Expanding on ideas expressed by the Kauffman Foundation and the American Chemical Society, Hammock told the scientific conference that "universities have great difficulty in determining the value of their own technologies due, in part, to the diversity of technologies developed. There is often a degree of arrogance among TTOs, resulting in hesitancy to solicit advice on establishing the value of a technology. As a result, they overlook important early state technology from young faculty while searching for 'home run' technologies from established investigators. Because TTOs are afraid of making bad decisions, the flow of the technology from the university is drastically delayed."

"Having failed to patent innovative technologies from young faculty, universities tend to spend far too much on the technology they do patent - trying to substitute very expensive language for research," Hammock said.

The UC Davis professor said a possible solution, suggested by the Kauffman Foundation, is for universities to move from the short-term profit model to a volume model where many technologies are patented at low cost and licensed rapidly.

The six-week clinical training is part of the curriculum to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse which takes two years of training after obtaining basic education credits.

Bruce Hammock