Tell us about yourself and your background.
Prior to joining CMU, I had a 33-year career as a legal and business professional focused on the development and commercialization of new technology. With Reed Smith LLP, I helped clients acquire, protect, and enforce their intellectual property rights across a wide range of technologies. I litigated subject matter as diverse as pharmaceutical formulations, DNA cloning and expression, medical imaging, nutritional supplements, video streaming, industrial hoist design, and horizontal drilling processes. In 2012, I helped establish and lead the life science practice at Beck and Thomas P.C., specifically with intellectual property clients in the pharmaceutical and medical device market. I’ve also served as a mediator since 2006 for the Western District of Pennsylvania, assisting in the resolution of intellectual property disputes filed in Federal Court. I joined CMU/CTTEC in 2019 to help the CTTEC team to manage the patent portfolio and to explore strategic opportunities. When I was in practice, I had many touchpoints with the university, for example conducting forensic IP rights analysis – who owned what and why. In 2019, the timing was right to make the move to CMU.
Your position with CTTEC was newly created when you joined CMU. What are some of the exciting changes that you are leading and/or overseeing?
Recently, I worked with Cindy Chepanoske and Reed McManigle to digitize our new faculty orientation presentations. This is a great development for CTTEC and the faculty to standardize the onboarding process. Another exciting ongoing project is related to IP documentation. We are roughly two-thirds of the way to finishing a system that tracks all patent applications in real-time and makes them available for inventors and other stakeholders at the university. This system has existed in private practice for a while, but we have been figuring out how to implement it at CMU. We have nine people across three departments working on it and the system will pull together the information for all parties involved with IP creation and registration. If an inventor wants to see where their patent application is in the process, the goal is for them to pull up a screen to see its status in real-time – helping both the primary investigators and CTTEC. Right now, the communication flow is very linear – an inventor talks with a licensing manager who speaks with an attorney who is working with the USPTO, and then the process happens in reverse. This new system will connect all of those entities together. Any time information comes from the USPTO, it will go to all three entities at once. They can query it at any time, and every night it will update and send any new information to all parties.
What makes CMU different when it comes to intellectual property and licensing?
CMU is very unique in how we create intellectual property. Three things that surprise most people about our practices are:
- CMU has a very faculty-centric process where the inventors are the drivers for everything. This process is very different from many universities.
- Our creators are very early-stage in their research. The inventions that our faculty are coming up with are far ahead of the timing for when they will be adopted and commercialized. For example, things that are most valuable now from a licensing perspective were probably filed between 2008-2015. The market is just now catching up to be able to implement the technology that was invented back then. This is one of the key reasons we have so many outside sponsors working with us – they see the potential and future path.
- CMU is the most collaborative environment I have seen. Only a small fraction of the projects have IP coming out from only one department. Most of the projects involve multiple departments and disciplines, collaborating across campus. In addition, we have many co-inventions with our research sponsors, so we are extremely collaborative both internally and externally.
What is your personal strategy for the future within CTTEC?
Keep everything moving forward and be strategic with our efforts! We are so fortunate to have a great team of highly skilled licensing managers right now. CMU is ever-evolving, and we never know what is coming through the door. I feel that our role is to adapt in ways to support the team while continuing to further develop the pipeline for continued innovation and discovery.