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Hopkins offers ‘Inventor’s Guide’ for researchers

Christy Wyskiel, executive director of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. (Submitted Photo)

Johns Hopkins University is hoping to push even more faculty and students to commercialize their inventions and ideas through its newly released “Inventor’s Guide,” which provides insights and instructions for topics from patenting an innovation to selecting a licensee for a product. 

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, a division of Hopkins first launched in 2014 that aims to help the university’s researchers translate their inventions into commercial applications, released the guide this week. It follows the release of a similar “Startup Guide” last year, which sought to explain the steps for Hopkins researchers to launch their own companies. 

JHTV leaders were inspired to create the guide in order to widen the scope of who is taking advantage of JHTV as an on-campus resource. While experienced entrepreneurs are likely aware of how to commercialize their research and how to approach JHTV with a new innovation, many other faculty members, not as familiar with the business side of technology, may not know where to begin. 

“It’s not often clear what the first steps are, what the path is,” said Christy Wyskiel, JHTV’s director. “There are thousands of faculty and students who may not have traveled that road before.” 

The guide was inspired by best practices at other universities with long and successful histories of supporting faculty and student innovation, such as Stanford University. 

Rather than a step-by-step guide to commercialization, the guide instead provides question-and-answer overviews on a range of important topics within the commercialization process, including technology transfer, conflicts of interest, license agreements and more. It also goes in-depth into several processes that the inventor will have to be familiar with to commercialize their research, such as the process of obtaining a patent and the licensing process. 

Overall, the document aims to “get people comfortable with what it means to commercialize the technology,” Wyskiel said. 

Commercialization at Hopkins has grown significantly since JHTV launched in 2014. At least 400 innovations by university researchers are reported to JHTV each year, and the office executes more than 150 licenses annually. In total, the office has made over 1,800 technologies available for licensing, and its portfolio includes 160 new startups that have raised $3 billion. 

According to Wyskiel, the university is interested in increased commercialization for a variety of reasons; increased commercialization can attract more students and faculty to Hopkins, expand the reach of important discoveries and innovations, and bring funds back to the school through royalties and equities stakes.  

She also hopes innovation at Hopkins, along with other nearby research institutions, will drive economic revitalization throughout the city of Baltimore. JHTV has made it a goal to encourage more and more startup founders to keep their businesses in the city. When the division started, only about 8.0% of its portfolio companies stayed in Baltimore, but that number has jumped up to 40%. 

“I personally believe the skyline of Baltimore should be filled with the names of tech and biotech companies coming out of our anchor institutions, like Johns Hopkins,” Wyskiel said. “I think if we’re standing here 10, 20, 30 years away … history will tell that this was a huge part of the Baltimore renaissance.”