On Thursday, April 21, 2011, I spent the day at the University of New Mexico. I toured the University with Lisa Kuuttila, who is the President & CEO of STC.UNM, a nonprofit corporation owned by the University of New Mexico. STC.UNM was founded in 1995 by the Regents of UNM to protect and transfer faculty inventions to the commercial marketplace. I was in town to deliver the keynote speech at their annual awards ceremony, which recognizes researchers who obtained patents during the previous years, as well as those with copyrighted manuscripts. This year the 8th Annual STC.UNM Creative Awards Reception recognized Dr. Larry A. Sklar, who was recognized for his achievements as one of UNM’s top innovators.
I was extremely impressed by what I saw at the University of New Mexico. There are two federal laboratories in New Mexico – Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories – so I knew there was a lot of cutting edge research in the State. I also knew that the University of New Mexico had a strong technology transfer program headed up by Kuuttila, who has spent 30 years in the industry and has an outstanding reputation in the field. That being said, I still didn’t quite anticipate seeing building after building dedicated to research and development. In fact, the University of New Mexico spends over $200 million in annual research funding, and has a wealth of laboratory facilities, high performance computing and information systems capabilities. Researchers also have close, collaborative ties to researchers at the nearby federal laboratories.
I started my day by meeting with Dr. Steve Brueck, who is the Director of UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials. Brueck was the 2010 Innovation Fellow, and the holder of 35 patents. The Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) collectively has been awarded 98 patents for research research in the fields of optoelectronics, microelectronics and nanotechnology. CHTM was founded in 1983 with $9.66 million in seed funding from the State of New Mexico spread out from 1983 to 1990. Since 1990 CHTM has successfully pursued its research without State funding, demonstrating that State seed funding can be an extremely valuable means for jump starting high technology research at State Universities.
I also had the opportunity to have lunch with Joe Cecchi, the Dean of Engineering at the University of New Mexico and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the STC.UNM. Officially Cecchi’s term as Dean ending July 23, 2009, and after a nationwide search his successor, Professor Gruia-Catalin Roman, will take over on July 1, 2011. Cecchi stepped down to return to teaching and “ramp up… research in nanotechnology at a time of critical national need and opportunity.” Cecchi is also now “devoting time to technology transfer, economic development, and growing the School’s partnerships with the increasing number of new technology companies in the region.” We had a lively discussion that ranged from patent litigation to global warming. It was refreshing to be able to talk about a range of legal and political issues in a civilized and enjoyable manner. I am starting to think that is the norm the farther you get from the shadow cast by Washington, D.C.
Finally, before the awards ceremony I had an opportunity to chat with Dr. Larry Sklar, who is Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pathology at UNM’s School of Medicine, Director of the Center for Molecular Discovery at UNM’s Health Sciences Center. Sklar is also the Co-Founder of Intellicyt Corporation, an start-up company created around his HyperCyt® technology. We hit it off quickly and started talking about how one fosters innovation, which would be the subject of his speech later in the evening. Sklar’s theory is that innovation is best fostered through leveraging one’s real-life connections in a collaborative, open environment. The people that you work with all have their own connections and collaborations, and that puts you in touch with those creative individuals as well, sort of a degree of separation akin to LinkedIn. Of course, being connected is only the first step. Sklar explained that he has always actively tried to know what his colleagues and his colleagues colleagues are working on, engaging in dialog and through brainstorming sessions let good ideas percolate to the top. This immediately peaked my interest because I have long thought that the future of the open source movement would be not with respect to open source code per se, but rather with open innovation leading to the establishment of platforms from which everyone interested can build – including proprietary improvements. See The Role for Open Source in Paradigm Shifting Innovation.
In speaking with Sklar I suspect that virtually every conversation could create an invention disclosure. Our discussion in his office taken a little farther could have sketched out an invention disclosure for a computer system to better manage information from disparate sources for later use. Whether we will ever reconnect and rekindle that discussion who knows, but Sklar strikes me as one who thoroughly enjoys discovery and brainstorming just comes natural. In addition to 19 patents he has published over 300 articles. We talked about the challenges of continuing to be creative with responsibilities both for a start-up company that uses his own technology and as the Director of the Center for Molecular Discovery, which requires him to keep tabs on those in the department and facilitate their creativity as well. It has to be exhausting to remain creative given such administrative responsibilities, but Sklar seems to relish the challenge and rises to the occasion.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of New Mexico. It was inspiring to see the research ongoing, talk to the researchers and engage them as both scientists and real people, and to see a highly developed technology transfer department staffed by 12 dedicated individuals. At a time when jobs are in such demand it was refreshing to see one University doing what they can to make scientific breakthroughs and to translate that into technology that can be the foundation for start-up companies.
I will have more on my keynote speech — “Patents, the Lifeblood of Innovation” — in the coming days. But for now allow me to recognize all those who received honors at the STC.UNM ceremony. Issued patents and disclosed copyrights at the University of New Mexico for the past year include the following:
- Compositions and Methods Useful for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia/Thrombosis – U.S. Patent 7,728,115, issued 6/1/2010 (Walter Kisiel)
- Compounds for Binding to ER alpha/beta and GPR30, Methods of Treating Disease States and Conditions Mediated Through These Receptors and Identification Thereof – U.S. Patent 7,875,721, issued 1/25/2011 (Cristian Bologa, Daniel Cimino, Bruce Edwards, Tudor Oprea, Eric Prossnitz, Larry Sklar)
- Diagnosis of P. aeruginosa Infection in the Lungs of Patients – U.S. Patent 7,717,857, issued 5/18/2010 (Graham Timmins, Vojo Deretic)
- Flow Cytometry for High Throughput Screening – U.S. Patent 7,842,244, issued 11/30/2010 (Larry Sklar, Bruce Edwards)
- Glutathione Beads and GST Fusion Proteins – U.S. Patent 7,785,900, issued 8/31/2010 (Eric Prossnitz, Peter Simons, Larry Sklar, Angela Wandinger-Ness)
- Human Kunitz-Type Inhibitor with Enhanced Antifibrinolytic Activity – U.S. Patent 7,910,550, issued 3/22/2011 (Walter Kisiel, Hitendra Chand)
- Human Renal Stem Cells – U.S. Patent 7,776,592, issued 8/17/2010 (Angela Wandinger-Ness, Tamara Roitbak, Elsa Romero)
- Hyperglycosylated HCG (Invasive Trophoblast Antigen) in the Differential Diagnosis of Malignant or Invasive Trophoblastic Disease – U.S. Patent 7,871,762, issued 1/18/2011 (Larry Cole)
- Method of Treating Cancer and Identifying Novel Anti-Cancer Compounds – U.S. Patent 7,708,991, issued 5/4/2010 (Larry Cole)
- Non-Invasive Rapid Diagnostic Test for M. Tuberculosis Infection – U.S. Patent 7,897,400, issued 3/1/2011 (Graham Timmins, Vojo Deretic)
- System and Methods for Measuring a Skin Protection Factor – U.S. Patent 7,888,001, issued 2/15/2011 (Graham Timmins)
- The Art and Science of Mentoring – Disclosed 9/27/2010 (Courtney Johnson)
- Eggbeater Transparent Cathode for Magnetrons and Ubitrons and Related Methods of Generating High Power Microwaves – U.S. Patent 7,893,621, issued 2/22/2011 (Edl Schamiloglu, Mikhail Fuks, Sarita Prasad)
- Fabrication of Enclosed Nanochannels Using Silica Nanoparticles – U.S. Patent 7,825,037, issued 11/2/2010 (Steve Brueck)
- Hollow Sphere Metal Oxides – U.S. Patent 7,744,673, issued6/29/2010 (Jeff Brinker, Xingmao Jiang)
- Hybrid Integration Based on Wafer-Bonding of Devices to AISb Monolithically Grown on Si – U.S. Patent 7,700,395, issued 4/20/2010 (Ganesh Balakrishnan, Larry Dawson)
- Magnetron Having a Transparent Cathode and Related Methods of Generating High Power Microwaves – U.S. Patent 7,696,696, issued 4/13/2010 (Edl Schamiloglu, Mikhail Fuks)
- Method and Apparatus for Producing Interferometric Lithography Patterns with Circular Symmetry – U.S. Patent 7,794,904, issued 9/14/2010 (Steve Brueck)
- Monodisperse Mesoporous Silica Microspheres Formed by Evaporation-Induced Self-Assembly of Surfactant Templates in Aerosols – U.S. Patent 7,879,304, issued 2/1/2011 (Abhaya Datye, Timothy Ward, Hien Pham)
- Nanostructured Separation and Analysis Devices for Biological Membranes – U.S. Patent RE41,762, issued 9/28/2010 (Steve Brueck, Linnea Ista)
- Precisely Wavelength-Tunable and Wavelength-Switchable Narrow Linewidth Lasers – U.S. Patent RE41,642, issued 9/7/2010 (Ravi Jain)
- Self-Aligned Spatial Frequency Doubling – U.S. Patent 7,906,275, issued 3/15/2011 (Steve Brueck, Andrew Frauenglass, Alex Raub)
- System and Method for Ratiometric Non-linear Coherent Imaging – U.S. Patent 7,869,051, issued 1/11/2011 (James Thomas, Wolfgang Rudolph)
- Threading-Dislocation-Free Nanoheteroepitaxy of Ge on Si Using Self-Directed Touch-Down of Ge Through a Thin Si0(2) Layer – U.S. Patent 7,888,244, issued 2/15/2011 (Sang Han)
- Uconsiderthis: A Website to Prevent Risky College Student Alcohol Consumption – Disclosed 5/20/2010 (Gill Woodall)
- WayToServe.org – Disclosed 11/3/2010 (Gill Woodall)
- Power System Graph Converter – Disclosed 11/1/2010 (Svetlana Poroseva)