I’m interested in getting back into blogging and updating this blog on a more regular basis. Over the past couple of years there have been a host of learnings and sightings that I’d like to write about. I’ve had a few revealing consulting experiences of late that I will write about as well. These have surrounded university venture capital funds, student venture capital funds at universities, university incubators, and entrepreneur attraction programmes.
One of the recent sources of inspiration for me was the announcement a couple of days ago of a $50 million gift to the University of Southern California for a new bioscience center from Gary K. Michelson, who is quite the academic entrepreneur himself. I read about this in a blog post on the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s website authored by Don Troop. See http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/50-million-gift-to-establish-bioscience-research-center-at-u-of-southern-calif/
An orthopedic surgeon who was trained on the East Coast at Temple University, Dr. Michelson has filed 950 patents or patents pending surrounding technologies and procedures related to the spine. Forbes has estimated his wealth at $1.5 billion so apparently there may be more to come if USC plays its cards right. Apparently he is quite the philanthropist thus far and has given to causes such as health, education, and animal welfare.
I enjoyed reading the article for Dr. Michelson was quite straightforward in his intentions, and is clearly interested in seeing the university spin out solutions that are commercializable. As an inventor and entrepreneur, he wants to make the world a better place and sees this gift as an avenue for increasing his influence in a field which he knows. He is hoping to stay involved in some capacity and that the university might take heed to his advice. In USC’s article http://viterbi.usc.edu/news/news/2014/usc-michelson-center.htm Dr. Michelson stated that “The gift is all about the promise of this convergent scientific method,” Michelson said. “With the University of Southern California as the place to stand and the ‘method’ as the ‘lever long enough,’ I expect that we will indeed move the world.”
In the LA Times article published a couple of days ago he elaborated on his inspiration further and remarked that he vision is that the center will not just do research for research’s sake, but “research for humanity’s sake, goal oriented with results manifested in the real world”. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-usc-gift-20140110,0,2163748.story#ixzz2qVdXZJ1C
This new biosciences center is fascinating. Its a cross-disciplinary effort between the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences and the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. Noted that the business school was not involved in this collaboration, for whatever reason(s). The new center will house up to 30 PIs and will host hundreds of staff and students.
The theory behind the co-location of scientists and engineers is that both discovery and innovation will be sped.
“One key goal is to turn the biological sciences into a quantitative and predictive science, fast-tracking the detection and cure of diseases”
While the university refers to the planned development as a “Center” it is essentially an incubator. For more on this definition please refer the NBIA website for a definition http://www.nbia.org/resource_library/what_is/index.php. We can expect new companies to form it its halls in addition to new technologies that will be licensed to larger firms.
The university of Southern California is about halfway through a $6 billion fundraising campaign. I’m wondering if there shouldn’t be a campaign for an programming related to the commercialisation of the technologies from the center, and perhaps even an extended incubation infrastructure to accomodate this and other research-led ventures out of the University of Southern California. Dr. Michelson himself has criticized universities for their lack of performance in transferring technologies and benefitting from it.
Interestingly as well Dr. Michelson did not attend USC and was not an alumni. Rather, the idea for such a center bubbled up within the university itself with the assistance of advancement. He met with university representatives on-campus, heard their pitch, and became intrigued by their idea of putting together people from different fields to solve problems and develop solutions. It resonated with his life’s work, so he says. Now that is good university development in the realm of academic entrepreneurship!