Public Release: 

NAI conference spotlights the innovation process

Technology & Innovation special issue features a profile of Nobel Laureate Steven Chu and a chronicle of the discovery of Lyrica

University of South Florida (USF Innovation)

Tampa, Fla. - The current issue of Technology and Innovation, Journal of the National Academy of Inventors has a special section devoted to presentations from the Fourth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) held March 19-20, 2015, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

The NAI Conference provides an annual forum for the celebration of academic invention and inventors and furthers the mission of the academy to recognize and encourage invention and enhance the visibility of university and non-profit research.

This year's conference was successful in that mission, as noted in the prelude to the conference section, gathering "an illustrious array of scholars who spoke eloquently about the importance of invention not only to the academic institutions that foster it but also to the millions who benefit from the positive impacts on everyday life that innovations provide."

The Special Section includes articles selected from presentations given at the 2015 NAI conference. The NAI Conference section is followed by a new T&I feature, the NAI Fellow Profile, which gives an in-depth look at one of the Academy's dynamic innovators.

The inaugural profile is dedicated to Steven Chu (Department of Physics, Stanford University), scientist, Nobel Laureate, and former U.S. Secretary of Energy. The General Section begins with a look at the role of gender in invention output and follows with articles on innovations in medical research, student IP, and groundwater management.

Special Section: NAI Conference Proceedings

A story about basic science, unexpected observations, and the "arduous" process of finding an industrial partner along the road to the commercialization of what became the drug Lyrica® is told by Richard B. Silverman (Northwestern University) in "Basic Science to Blockbuster Drug: Invention of Pregabalin."

"This commercialization process was new to Northwestern University, and there were some oversights in the language of the license agreement, resulting in unpleasant experiences with the industrial partner," said Silverman.

However, Silverman's trials were well worth the effort, as patients benefited from the new drug, and he and the university learned important lessons about the commercialization process.

"Global Patterns of Innovation in 2013" were examined by Ashley J. Stevens (Focus IP Group, LLC), revealing some potentially surprising results. According to Stevens, the U.S. remains the top innovator in the corporate, governmental, and academic sectors. "Sixty-six of the top one hundred and one universities receiving U.S. patents were in the U.S.," reported Stevens. However, second place in the innovator competition went to the Asian countries of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China, nations that received almost three times as many patents as Germany, France, Italy, and the UK combined in 2013.

Do "failures" help the innovation process? Yes, said authors Yolanda Leslie Comedy (AAAS) and Sorin Grama (Promethean Power Systems). Citing examples of innovation failures before ultimate successes, the authors maintain that "failure can be an effective tool for innovation" in their commentary "The Critical Role of Failure in the Innovation Process." Many innovators, including Thomas Edison, have learned that failure can be a "key to success," as it brings them closer to what works after finding out what does not work, said Comedy and Grama.

"Wireless Health Sensors for In Vivo Diagnostics," developed by a research team at the California Institute of Technology and reported upon at the conference, are able to provide real-time, quantitative information on a patient's metabolites through a digital wireless communication system. "We have developed," said the researchers, "wireless metabolic sensors for continuous in vivo monitoring of disease progression and treatment efficacy... [that] can be used to monitor patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or cancer, during treatment."

NAI Fellow Profile

Nobel Laureate and physicist Steven Chu (Stanford University) discusses his most recent work and shares his thoughts on innovative science, teaching students to think, and the importance of communication for scientists. The profile highlights Chu's devotion to innovation throughout his career and track record of innovative output, including his efforts at promoting sustainable energy technologies.

General Section: Gender, Technology Transfer, a 'Culture' of Invention, a Clinical Research Model, Groundwater Management

"Does gender matter in invention?" asked Philippa Olsen of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). "Although more women are entering science and technology fields, women are named as inventors on fewer than one in five patents." In "Invention-Does Gender Matter?," Olsen reports on a roundtable discussion the USPTO held in November 2015 on gender, invention, and gender disparities in patenting. The motivation for the roundtable was to determine what forces drive the disparity and what can be done to close the gap.

In "Consideration of Technology Transfer in Tenure and Promotion," University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and co-authors, who comprised a task force established by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), examine current approaches for defining technology transfer activities and how they may be assessed in terms of faculty performance for consideration in tenure and promotion. Building on survey results collected from U.S. and Canadian universities in 2014, the authors recommend that university policy statements should acknowledge the merit in technology transfer as part of university work and subsequently evaluate the work as an intellectual contribution while also addressing issues of potential conflicts of interest.

Discussing "Creating a Culture of Invention," Phil Weilerstein (VentureWell) and Nathalie Duval Couetil (Purdue University) note that, increasingly, graduate and undergraduate students are engaged in the generation of intellectual property. How best to align student interest with university policy and practices remains a "work in progress." The authors aim at raising awareness of the needs of student inventors and how those needs intersect with the economic, scientific, and educational outcomes of the institution and its constituents.

An evolving model of "protocol-provided clinical" research has become more standardized, suggest co-authors Harry W. Severance and Kevin M. Spiegel, both of Erlanger Health System (Tennessee College of Medicine). The model under discussion features reduced research-specific infrastructure requirements and offers a pathway for non-university-affiliated and community-based hospitals and healthcare facilities to enter clinical research using business and management operations very similar to those of standard-of-care operations.

In "Innovations in Groundwater Management: Smart Markets for Transferable Groundwater Extraction Rights," written by Richael K. Young (Mammoth Trading) and Nicholas Brozovi (University of Nebraska), the authors state that "No national policy on groundwater use exists in the United States, [but] local groundwater management is emerging across the country in response to concerns and conflicts over declining well yields, land subsidence, and depletion of hydrologically connected surface waters." They further explain how "smart markets" can address needs in sustaining rural livelihoods and groundwater resources. By example, the authors cited a model for transferring groundwater pumping rights for irrigation in the High Plains region and describe how barriers can be overcome and more active trading encouraged.

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The Fifth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors will take place April 14-15, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

The National Academy of Inventors is a 501(c)(3) non-profit member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 3,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 200 institutions, and growing rapidly. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. The NAI edits the multidisciplinary journal, Technology and Innovation. The editorial offices of Technology and Innovation are located in the USF Research Park, 3702 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 165, Tampa, Florida, 33612 USA. Tel: +1-813-974-1347. Email: TIJournal@academyofinventors.org

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