I attended this year’s AUTM annual meeting last month with Madhu Madhusudhan, Chris Baker, Laura Stennett, 15 LifeArc AUTM fellows and two LifeArc fellows.
Two years post-pandemic restrictions, the tech transfer crowd returned to the full in-person conference with great excitement to share best practice and network with global key players in the tech transfer field.
This year’s programme was packed, with 100s of sessions scheduled over nine parallel tracks. Seeing a conference programme where Equity, Diversity & Inclusion has a dedicated track was a delight. As a long-term sponsor and participant, we had a significantly higher profile than in previous years as an AUTM Silver sponsor and with more of us attending in person.
I chaired two LifeArc-led panel sessions, the first involving Chris Baker and Madhu Madhusudhan alongside global Venture Capitalists and investors, addressing investment for Life Science technologies. The second panel comprised Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property professionals, including the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) and WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), and discussed career paths and training programmes to assist entry into the Technology Transfer and IP sectors.
We were also one of the sponsors of an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion breakfast event for AUTM attendees facilitated by GEDDITT (Global Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in Technology Transfer).
My biggest takeaways from the conference:
- The tech transfer sector is paying more attention to the economic aspects of technology transfer. Never has there been greater emphasis on demonstrating impact. Where financial, this ensures the valuation is accurate, the timing right, and the investor and model appropriate. This is a big topic which is thankfully attracting a more collaborative approach to finding a solution.
- The sector is changing. More organisations are having open discussions about ED&I or the US, say DEI and how to ensure its principles are incorporated in technology transfer best practices. In many aspects, the US is a leader in these activities, with the rest of the world slowly following. The GEDITT breakfast event was an excellent opportunity for individuals who are often nervous about addressing diversity and inclusion to talk over breakfast. I sat there during the breakfast event and was in awe of how frank the discussions were and surprised to hear how much was happening within other organisations. In addition, the AUTM board is the most diverse it has ever been, and this year has its first black female Chair, Dr Almesha Campbell.
- Technology Transfer Fellowships and immersive training programmes are in demand. LifeArc holds the trophy for our two fellowship programmes. Despite the LifeArc AUTM programme entering its 7th year and there being a real need for supported pathways into the tech transfer profession, there is no other programme like it. Programmes of this nature, alongside training and skills, were a big topic, and there is currently talk around global collaborative programmes to assist the skills needed.
- Nothing beats an in-person meeting. All attendees shared this sentiment: from the most seasoned to the first-time attendees, including our fellows. The conference presented the chance to participate in various training and educational sessions led by the best facilitators. Also, our fellows were allowed to put their networking skills into practice. The AUTM training courses are crucial to the fellows’ training programme and include Negotiation Skills, Technology Marketing and Technology valuation.
And the donkey?
There is always a crazy element to the opening session of the AUTM annual meeting, reflecting the conference location and personality of the current outgoing Chair of the AUTM board. In this case, the location was Texas, and the outgoing Chair, Ian McClure, was Kentuckian.
Planning discussions had ambitions of a horse, but the closest that could be achieved was a small donkey, accurately referred to as a burro. A banjo band accompanied the presence of Little Willy Nelson (the donkey), and each of the AUTM board members wore Stetsons. A great and memorable way to open the annual conference!