Christy Wyskiel is a senior advisor to Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels. She oversees matters of innovation, commercialization and technology transfer and serves as chair of the Johns Hopkins University Alliance Board for Science and Technology Development (the Alliance).
Each year, the Alliance hosts a daylong meeting that connects faculty from The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore to industry representatives and entrepreneurs that may be able to help them commercialize their technologies. Four of the top presenters are given $50,000 awards. For more information about the meeting, read here.
In addition to funding four exciting commercialization projects, what are some other fruits of the annual Alliance meeting?
WYSKIEL: Before a faculty member presents their technology to the Alliance, they are coached on how best to “pitch” it, which is often distinct from giving scientific presentations about their work. This helps everyone better understand the technology and the opportunity at hand and can help us identify potential members of the Alliance who may agree to mentor the faculty member on an ongoing basis. This can result in a technology getting strong industry advice, which can propel it from a concept in the lab to a marketable product.
Also, faculty members are able to network with other entrepreneurial faculty through this meeting, and they are able to see good examples of efforts to commercialize a technology at Johns Hopkins. Individual faculty members in a large research university seldom have the opportunity to learn from those outside their area of expertise, and there are even fewer opportunities to learn across disciplines and campuses. We encourage faculty who are presenting to stay for the entire day, and our consistent faculty feedback is that hearing other pitches from faculty is helpful to them.
How are participants chosen?
WYSKIEL: In early summer, the Tech Transfer licensing and intellectual property staff begins combing through their dockets for technologies that are interesting from a commercialization perspective. We also approach department directors and key faculty leaders for names of faculty with inventions of potential interest. Technologies are screened and selected through an extensive preparation process.
How do you prepare faculty for the meeting?
WYSKIEL: We coach faculty members to tell their story in a way that a business-oriented audience would like to hear it, which is very different from what an academic audience wants. That sets up faculty for productive meetings with potential investors after the Alliance event.
What are some success stories?
WYSKIEL: Success breeds more success, and we have seen evidence of that in past award winners. For example, Jonathan Schneck presented in the first year of the program, then came back and gave an update some years later. In recent years, he has developed a start-up company that was showcased at the Alliance meeting this year.
What is your background?
WYSKIEL: I was an investor and entrepreneur for 19 years in the life sciences and medical industries. I’ve co-founded two Baltimore-based start-ups and consulted on numerous others. President Daniels approached me about taking Johns Hopkins’ successful technology transfer operation and ramping it up into a world-class innovation hub for the entire university and surrounding region. I’ve been working on that since 2013.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
WYSKIEL: I like taking the hard work and dedication of Johns Hopkins faculty and researchers and providing a vehicle through which those discoveries can improve someone’s quality of life.
What can our faculty do to make your job easier?
WYSKIEL: Make our job easier? We want to make the faculty’s job easier. Reach out to us, give us a try, and let us show you how our Tech Transfer office can help lead the way from bench to bedside and beyond.
--Interviewed by Catherine Kolf