George Washington University recently hired its first director of the Office of Technology Transfer. Steven Kubisen, a scientist, entrepreneur and technology commercialization expert, began as director on March 1.
Dr. Kubisen, who has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard University, has spent much of his career focusing on the intersections between science, technology and the business world. In his new role, he will help GW faculty members evaluate the commercial potential of their research and build bridges between researchers and industry.
“We want to be the DeBeers of inventions,” Dr. Kubisen explained. “We want to mine, refine and market—we’re looking for diamonds in the rough. My role as director is to oversee that effort and help better connect the Office of Technology Transfer with our faculty, so we know what people are inventing and can manage the internal process and help get started on licensing.”
Jim Chung, executive director of GW’s Office of Entrepreneurship, said the university is fortunate to have Dr. Kubisen’s expertise behind its technology transfer effort.
“In his previous career, Dr. Kubisen has done it all as a leader in corporate, startup and university environments,” Mr. Chung said. “This diversity of perspective is critical for building a world-class technology transfer office that goes beyond just patent protection, but makes a real impact in getting university inventions out of the lab and into the market.”
Dr. Kubisen has extensive entrepreneurial experience. Most recently, he was CEO and cofounder of Seguro Surgical, a company that works on commercializing devices for abdominal surgeries, and is also president and founder of InnoComm, LLC, an early-stage commercialization company, focusing on medical device, health care and material innovations. He also founded the Cache Valley Angels, an investment group providing early-stage investment capital, mentoring and network connections to ventures in the Logan, Utah, area.
Dr. Kubisen also has a great deal of university technology transfer experience. He spent three years at the Johns Hopkins University as senior director of ventures and marketing and four years at the Utah State University Research Foundation as vice president for technology commercialization.
In both of these university positions, Dr. Kubisen worked to connect faculty members with industry.
“I’ve been on both sides,” he said. “Businesspeople and researchers speak different languages—their vernacular is different. Sometimes it’s difficult for the two sides to connect. Faculty may be pushing the boundaries of science and solving problems, but they don’t always see that the solution they’ve found in the lab may also be useful in the marketplace.”
GW’s Office of Technology Transfer already had numerous successes before his arrival, Dr. Kubisen said. One example is Professor Akos Vertes’s Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization technology, which is used to analyze components in live cells easily and efficiently. The OTT helped Dr. Vertes license his invention to Protea Biosciences Inc, which developed a commercial version of the technology that will soon be available for purchase by labs and hospitals all over the world.
Another OTT success story is Associate Professor Michael Keidar of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, whose research into low-temperature plasma technology has been licensed to US Medical Innovations. This “cool plasma” technology has the potential to revolutionize how tumors are removed, allowing a “margin” around the tumor to remain so that patients keep more of their own healthy cells while doctors remove cancerous cells.
Dr. Kubisen said opportunities exist to commercialize non-medical and non-science research projects as well. One faculty member, for example, is working with OTT on commercializing software that would help senior citizens remember to take their medication correctly.
“If faculty members or researchers have an idea they even think might be of interest to industry, come talk to us,” he said. “It never hurts. We really like to talk to faculty and find out what they’re working on.”