Hopkins hunts a licensing maestro

Effort to increase revenue from scientists' results

February 07, 2004|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

The Johns Hopkins University has launched a national search for a new director of its office that licenses the discoveries of its scientists, a move that comes as the university seeks to more aggressively court relationships with companies that can turn those discoveries into products.

William P. Tew, 58, who had headed the university's Office of Licensing and Technology Development since January 2003, said yesterday that his departure was a mutual decision.

"I'm a builder of things, not a runner of things," Tew said as he took a break from building an experimental aircraft. "Both the administration and I realized it was time." Tew left at the end of December.

Critics said that under Tew the office hadn't worked aggressively enough to form relationships with companies that could fund its research, license its discoveries or perhaps even start firms in which the university had a stake. Hopkins reported $8.1 million in licensing revenue in fiscal year 2002, compared with $82.1 million for Stanford University - the only institution that raised more in research dollars, according to the Association of University Technology Managers.

But Tew has argued that the difference has been a matter of luck and resources. Stanford's licensing office is larger, he said, and its success can largely be tied to a few discoveries that bring in millions. He said his accomplishments included assembling a staff and laying a foundation for the future by developing consistent practices and policies.

Tew was a Hopkins faculty member who left the university to run and ultimately sell Chesapeake Biological Laboratories Inc., a company he founded. He returned to the university in 2000 to head the School of Medicine's technology licensing office. When that office was combined with a similar one for the rest of the university, Tew was selected to run it.

Yesterday, Hopkins' vice provost for research, Theodore Poehler, said the university is focused on doing a better job of business development, interaction with corporations and helping to develop a biotechnology park in East Baltimore adjacent to its medical campus. But he said he did not mean to imply that Tew wasn't doing a good job.

"Right now, things are being driven by the life sciences park," Poehler said. "We need to get something happening on that."

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