Thursday, May 30, 2013


In Chasing Medical Miracles, journalist Alex O’Meara’s looks at our medical system today and examines complex world of clinical trials, a $24 billion industry.

In recent years, clinical trials have shifted from academic settings into the commercial realm. The FDA continues to add new layers of rules and requirements for clinical trial in a reactive manner. Mr. O’Meara describes how this contributes to the difficulty academic institutions face, or even some big pharmaceutical companies, to recruit and monitor the highly specific patients that the FDA typically requires.

Pharmaceutical companies engage Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) that specialize in administering clinical trials are highly profitable. Companies recruit and pay tens of thousands of people to participate in tests. Mr. O’Meara raises ethical concerns about clinical trials including the possibility of CROs skewing results and the financial incentive for clinical-trial applicants to lie about their medical history.

While the “subject” participating in a clinical trial can also profit, participants that consent to a long term study are said to be in “lockdown” until it’s over. The allure of the money, as well as contributing to new medicine is exciting, but few realize the risk they enter while consenting to be a subject in a clinical trial.

Mr. O’Meara, a clinical-trial patient himself, found the experimental cell-transplant diabetes treatment worked briefly, but eventually the transplanted cells failed. While the trial did not cure diabetes, the message remains that his participation might have helped advance medicine.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Strategic GPS: Where could we go if we changed the model of university tech transfer and licensing?

Lately, I’ve been sharing some views on “A Faster Path from Lab to Market” (from the title of a Harvard Business Review article).

Some thought-leaders have made a case that current restrictions imposed by U.S. research universities on the ways their faculty can commercialize federally funded discoveries are slowing the diffusion of new technologies.

As readers of this blog will know, most universities channel commercialization through centralized technology licensing offices established in the wake of the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act. Over time, according to some, too many of these offices have become monopolies that slow the process of commercialization due to the constraints of the current system.

“We know that there are many vital innovations and discoveries languishing in university labs because of a suboptimal licensing system at many universities,” said Robert Litan, vice president for research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “One simple amendment to the Bayh-Dole Act would allow faculty members to choose their own licensing agents/experts and bring these discoveries to market quickly. Unleashing this kind of innovation will lead to the creation of new companies and new jobs.”

This approach, argue that if faculty members can choose their own licensing agents, the increased competition would speed up the commercialization of new technologies while still allowing universities to collect the same royalties as under the current system. The free agency solution is one of the 10 ideas that HBR says “will make the world better.”

In sum, continued federal support for research in academia and the federal labs is important for innovation, and has important economic benefits for the national economy and local economies. But at the same time, we will not maximize the benefits of this spending for society unless we do all we can to maximize the incentives for commercializing the innovations that this spending generates.

Our current innovation eco-system has clear limitations. These can and should be addressed as part of any national “innovation agenda.”

I've found in my work with Bioscience Bridge that we support many of the ideas here for doing so.

Bioscience Bridge is a technology transfer agency represents leading universities and their tech transfer offices. We connect partners to in-license life science discoveries and medical inventions for development into new products, applications, or services.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Strategic GPS: Where is the regional impact of licensing of university innovation

In other recent posts, I’ve been sharing some views on “A Faster Path from Lab to Market” (from the title of a Harvard Business Review article).

As universities and federal labs step up the commercialization of their innovations through tech transfer, the discoveries by faculty members often create “star scientists.”

Beyond the impact of star scientists on specific universities or firms, there are many regional benefits.

Kauffman Foundation researchers Robert Litan and Dane Stangler write that the mere existence of star scientists in a given region has a propensity to increase the number of technology startups in the area.”

In part, this positive impact flows from scientists working directly with businesses. In addition, the “star power” these scientists bring to their enterprises help develop an ecosystem—other scientists and professionals, as well as skilled workers—around the firms they help create. This ecosystem makes it easier for other entrepreneurs with their own ideas to launch new ventures, creating a virtuous circle of development.

It is in this way that regions can develop into hubs of new technology, ventures and ideas. Examples given by the Kauffman Foundation include: Silicon Valley with Stanford and Berkeley, Austin (University of Texas), Boulder (University of Colorado), San Diego (UC San Diego), Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State), and Seattle (where the local university, Washington, has been important, but not the critical ingredient to that area’s entrepreneurial success).

When I work with early-stage technologies through Bioscience Bridge, we use a proven process designed to configure the technologies’ “road map” called Strategic GPS® Navigation Process. This process:
  • Identifies the key targets
  • Articulates the current situation (Where we are)
  • Defines the desired objective (Where we want to be) 
  • Conveys the over-arching strategy
  • Delineates the milestones
  • Outlines the key tactics

  • Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Strategic GPS: The numbers show where we’re headed with university innovation

    If you took academic innovators out of the commercialization process, it could significantly reduce the likelihood that the discoveries from the lab will be turned quickly to productive uses by society outside the university.

    That’s the view from Bioscience Bridge, because they believe creative academic thinking alone cannot promote medical advancement unless it is applied to real-world scientific problems and challenges.

    In this blog, let’s look at some numbers on how the spreading of ideas is regularly best accomplished when an innovation is commercialized. This gives the innovation the infusion of human and financial capital that enables innovations to scale up.

    Here are some numbers that show where we’re headed:

    Block and Keller published “Where Do Innovations Come From? Transformations in the U.S. National Innovation System” in which they showed universities and federal laboratories have become much more important sources of the top 100 innovations over the last 35 years. They analyzed the top 100 “most technologically significant new products” listed each year in R&D magazine. In 1975, for example, they note that private firms accounted for over 70% of the R&D 100, while the academic institution share was just 15%. By 2006, just three decades later, these two shares were reversed: academia contributed over 70% of the top 100 innovations, while private firms accounted for about 25%.

    University-generated innovations, if anything, should be even more important to the U.S. economy and society in the years ahead.

    Moreover, I’ve always believed that creativity is thinking about new ideas, while innovation is putting ideas into practice.

    That’s why in my work with Bioscience Bridge, we work with early-stage technologies using a proven process designed to configure a “road map” called Strategic GPS® Navigation Process. This process identifies the key targets, articulates the current situation (where we are) and defines the desired objective (where we want to be). Most important, it conveys the over-arching strategy and delineates the milestones to bridges the science and the business.

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    Strategic GPS: Where we’re heading toward an open, competitive licensing system for university innovators

    Over the last few years, experts in our field have been debating ways to create “A Faster Path from Lab to Market” (from the title of Litan and Mitchell’s article in Harvard Business Review).

    Increasingly, universities and federal labs are accelerating the dissemination of their innovation through commercialization activities—particularly the licensing of discoveries by faculty members either to existing firms or to companies they form. Some have argued whether commercialization should be a university function at all, since they believe that universities exist to further the creation of new basic knowledge – not to engage in commercialization.

    Based on this view, they worry that commercial activities distract faculty from more fundamental research and their instructional activities. Moreover, it is occasionally claimed that commercialization can warp the values and culture of the university, its faculty and its leaders.

    In my work with Bioscience Bridge, I believe creative thinking alone cannot promote medical advancement unless it is applied to real-world scientific problems and challenges.

    And this spreading of ideas is regularly best accomplished when an innovation is commercialized. This gives the innovation the infusion of human and financial capital that enables innovations to scale up.

    Bioscience Bridge is a technology transfer agency represents leading universities and their tech transfer offices. We connect partners to in-license life science discoveries and medical inventions for development into new products, applications, or services.

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    Brand Stories: tapping into song lyrics for another kinds of storyteller

    I’ve been working on a number of brand story engagements lately. And I really enjoy observing where insights emerge – and how projective techniques can help stimulate creative expression.

    For me, great song lyrics often inspire ways to help tell a story.

    One of my favorites is:

    "I once had a girl,

    or should I say, she once had me."

    "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" first appeared on The Beatles’ 1965 album Rubber Soul. It is one of several songs on the album referring to an antagonistic relationship with a woman. When asked about the meaning of the lyrics, producer George Martin answered, “My wife is going to give me a hard time for saying this. It was one of John's indiscretions. I remember we were sitting at the veranda outside our hotel rooms in St. Moritz and John was playing at his guitar and working out the text. He felt that Cynthia had tricked him to marry her.” Martin referred to the words as "a very bitter little story".

    The song is a lilting acoustic ballad featuring Lennon's lead vocal, signature McCartney harmonies in the middle, as well as the first use of the sitar by a rock band, of course played by George Harrison. The exotic instrumentation and oblique lyric represented one of the first indications to fans of the expanded musical storytelling and experimental approach the group was adopting.

    Another of my favorite song lyrics is from Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow.” He writes in the opening line,

    “Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer,
    I was taken by a photograph of you.”

    In both these examples, it’s the twist of the meaning and perspective that makes the lyric so memorable.

    Do you have a favorite song lyric that tells a story?

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    10 Liberating Inventions of the Last 10 Years

    Seems like a good time to check the progress “down at the global idea factory” – as James Badham put it, and that’s what he did.

    There have been some big advances: the iPod, smartphones, Google, texting, Twitter, Facebook, Tivo and LCD televisions are a few that come to mind.

    “It’s strange to consider the inventions and ideas that change our lives — or might,” says Mr.Badham, a writer and media liaison for the environmental graduate school at the University of California, Santa Barbara.. “Some of them, like the large hedron particle collider, a massive contraption straight from science fiction, will forever remain largely incomprehensible to the vast majority of us,” he says. “Others, like screw-top wine caps, seem almost comically mundane yet have a huge effect on tens of millions of people. To see them juxtaposed a quest to learn the secrets of the universe on one hand, a quest for a good bottle of wine on the other, is somehow satisfying.”

    Let’s take a look at the 10 big ideas – including one major healthcare advancement – from the past decade that Mr. Badham listed for their powerful impact.


    Although it may not directly change your life, it may confirm, disprove or shift some theories about how the universe works. The particle collider is the world’s largest machine, a 17-mile-long circular tunnel some 500 feet below the border of Switzerland and France.


    Wind power is the fastest-growing form of renewable energy. (The first wind turbine was built in Ohio in 1888. It produced only 12 kilowatts of electricity to power a lawn mower.) Wind farms today supply only 2% of worldwide electrical usage, but that’s twice the level of just three years ago. Watch for that number to go way up.


    Developed for military use, the global positioning system hit its populist stride when cell phones became GPS-enabled, so that first responders could more easily locate the source of 911 calls.


    Edison’s incandescent lightbulb was one of the most important inventions of all time, but the light-emitting diode (LED) will likely soon replace it. The Department of Energy predicts that LEDs will be the primary source of household illumination by 2017.


    In 1990, the Department of Energy partnered with the National Institutes of Health to begin the Human Genome Project, completed in 2003 two years ahead of schedule. The primary goals of the project were to identify some 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA, to determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA, and then to create systems for storing and analyzing the information and transferring it to the private sector. Already, the HGP has enabled researchers to pinpoint errors in genes that cause or contribute to disease, to develop and administer genetic tests that can show predispositions to illnesses, and to begin finding ways to treat, cure and prevent thousands of diseases that result from genetic inheritance. (Some of them are described in my colleague Brenda Rizzo’s blog “Therapy based on genetics–one step closer” on August 18, 2011.)


    Begun in 2000 by a group of musicians and technophiles, Pandora is an endless realm for musical explorers. Pandora’s database catalogs such attributes as melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, lyrics, and vocal style.


    Screw tops used to be reserved for the humblest wines no self-respecting oenophile would look at, much less drink. But they’re on the rise now, for the simple fact that bad corks cost tens of millions of dollars per year. A screw top may be unromantic, but it’s a revolution in freshness.

    8. SUDOKU

    An American game of numbers with a Japanese name, sudoku has been around a while but became popular only about five years ago. A type of Latin square, Sudoku puzzles now appear in every newspaper, in puzzle books, all over the Internet and even in handheld electronic devices.


    Gehry’s asymmetrical designs of organic shapes, unexpected protrusions and a host of original forms — often with metal and glass surfaces — have become instant tourist attractions wherever they’ve gone up. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, made Gehry’s name a household word in 1997. A Gehry structure, like the BP Bridge in Chicago’s Millennium Park, doesn’t just sit there; it says to the kid in everyone, “Walk around here; it’s really cool.”


    In the new wave of grand libraries, stuffy rooms and dowdy design have given way to extraordinary architecture with books in the kind of suitably grand and inspiring environment they deserve. Combined with extra-literary attractions, these modern word temples bring millions to buildings where reading is the main thing.

    Monday, May 13, 2013

    What is good design? Lessons we can take from home and landscape design experts

    “Entire art, architecture and design movements have been built on the question, What is good design?,” writes Melanie Warner Spencer in a recent issue of the Houston Chronicle.

    In our field of marketing, advertising, and digital design, we also look to learn from others – in what Ms. Spencer describes as being “built, rebuilt, imitated, deconstructed, abstracted and reconstructed.”

    I thought we could draw some parallels and lessons from her interview of a few designers and architects. Here are some of their views of what’s coming next.

    David Lake and Ted Flato of Lake/Flato, award-winning architecture firm: “Good design always considers the larger problem, considers the larger context. Good design needs to make the larger environment a better place. We're also healing and mending an existing environment and trying to connect it back to that. That idea can go in many different contexts. In an urban setting, we think of the entire block and how that building can be a good citizen with the buildings around it. Good design encompasses a broader design solution. Good design needs to be comprehensive. Comprehensive is also about health.”

    Laura Umansky, interior designer and owner of Laura U Collection: “Good design must consider three things: intention, function and beauty. Every decision that I make for an interior is carefully considered prior to presenting it to a client or including it in their home (intention). It must also be smart, useful and have a very valid reason to exist in the space (function). Lastly, the space as a whole should have special meaning for, and elicit an emotional response from, its inhabitant (beauty).”

    Liz Lambert, designer and hotelier (her projects include El Cosmico in Marfa, the Hotel San Jose and Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin and the Hotel Havana in San Antonio): “Good design is often about knowing when to stop. It is about finding a balance between elegance and simplicity, vibrancy and calm, old and new. It's about collecting objects that reflect your life experiences and your passion more than it is about filling a room. And for me, it's usually about letting the people be the color in the room rather than the stuff.”

    Julie Schaff Risman, furniture and interior designer, owner of the Inside Story Design: “Your home should tell your story. Art and artifacts from your travels, collections and artful photos turn a house into a home and prevent the model-home look. Always add an organic element to a space: plants, fresh flowers, seagrass, shells and salvaged items breathe life and warmth into a space. Edit - if in doubt, leave it out.”

    I felt these designers offered some good guidance, even for projects on my desk right now: consider the intention and function of the brand, then go beyond to tell its story in the context of the customer’s larger environment.

    And most of all, know when to stop.

    It’s time to launch.

    Wednesday, May 08, 2013

    8 eBooks I want to Write ASAP


    Creative energy.

    Cultivation of relationships.

    I don’t simple write books and blogs to educate. Rather it helps me gain (and share) a deeper understanding of subjects.

    Here are some ideas I’m working on with deeper value.
    • 8 Best Practices for Brand Story Development
    • 8-Point Check List for Evaluating Brand Innovation Concepts
    • 8 Ways to Introduce New Hires to Your Industry
    • 8 Common Questions about Focus Groups Answered
    • 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Research Report
    • 88 Health & Medical Statistics For Better Decision-Making
    • 8 Experts Share Industry Insights: Learn From The Best
    • 8 eBooks to Write Right Now
    Could you contribute to any of these? Let’s collaborate.

    What other types of eBooks do you like? Share your suggestions.

    Wednesday, May 01, 2013

    How to build trust

    on Authenticity

    "Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet - thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing - consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust." 
    -Lance Secretan