The math is easy. More patents mean more money for Rutgers and Rowan universities.
But as Rutgers and Rowan sort through the massive paperwork required to transfer the patents and intellectual property from the University of Medicine and Dentistry, the schools see so much more.
Richard Mammone, Rutgers associate vice president for innovation, said the merger will bring new revenue for Rutgers, but he said the larger hope is to create a new institution stronger than the sum of its parts.
“One thing is just a straight-line forecast of cash flows will be increased if we have more patents,” he said. “But I think to me the bigger reason of any merger is the synergies. If you're just going to add one and one and get two, it's not necessarily worth all of the costs and expenses.”
Patents can become a revenue driver for schools via licensing agreements, but Mammone said the way to maximize the integration is by forging connections between the schools and between applied scientists and basic researchers.
Mammone said traditionally, universities have been more worried about protecting themselves from lawsuits than developing — and patenting — technologies with real-world applications. He said the merger provides an opportunity to change that.
“We're sort of using this opportunity to reorganize and be better positioned to help the local economy and help industry — and honestly, to bring in more practical experience for our students,” he said. “That's, to me, the big picture.”
Shreekanth Mandayam, associate provost for research at Rowan, sees the same. He said his school is undertaking a self-assessment to ensure it capitalizes on new synergies created by the merger with the osteopathic medical school.
“We've been working closely as part of the integration efforts to understand what their strengths are, where their IP strengths are, and what are the licensing agreements they have in place,” he said. “There's a tremendous opportunity there.”
Vincent Smeraglia, executive director of UMDNJ's Office of Technology Transfer and Business Development, said UMDNJ and Rutgers professors have worked together on collaborations in the past, but “logistically, they're going to become a lot easier to do after the merger, because we'll be one university.”
Smeraglia, who will join Rutgers' Office of Technology Commercialization in July, said he expects a lot of new innovation in the areas of cancer research and infectious diseases.
Those are both areas of strength at UMDNJ, he said, but the former should blossom further thanks to the integration of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
“It's the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the State of New Jersey,” he said. “The merger is going to really push forward collaboration at the cancer center to do cancer research.”
Smeraglia said he's also working with local trade groups to develop things such as standardized contracts, which he said should make collaboration easier.
For now, both schools are racing to complete the task of securing the intellectual property of an entity — UMDNJ — that soon will no longer exist. Rutgers will acquire 341 patent applications and patents and 127 licenses from UMDNJ.
Patents can be a key linchpin when it comes to working with outside partners, particularly industry partners, who want to know the underlying intellectual property is protected.
Smeraglia said the school is on pace to ensure all of the paperwork is in order by July 1. Missing the deadline could delay the combined university's ability to sign new licensing deals.
“We have to be ready to hit the ground running on Day One,” he said.
Rowan, which is only incorporating one of UMDNJ's eight institutions, the School of Osteopathic Medicine, is getting dozens of patents and about half a dozen licensing agreements from UMDNJ.
“We're actually going to be inheriting quite a bit of IP,” said Sarah E. Piddington, director of technology transfer at Rowan.
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