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#BIO2017: A Peek at Partnering | UC Berkeley

April 14, 2017
Breaking Buzz is BIO’s newest blog series that reaches across the globe to bring you an insider’s preview into the hottest international and partnering trends coming to San Diego for the BIO International Convention.

A Day in the Life of a Partnering Powerhouse

UC Berkeley has had a whopping 600+ products commercialized from its research since it started counting in the 1980s. Its success stories range from mega blockbusters like CRISPR/CAS 9 to some of the early research and development of iplimumab. No matter how large or small, each of the hundreds of products is worthy of fulfilling the Berkeley School of Public Health’s mission: to improve population health, especially for the most vulnerable.

One big obstacle, however, is that as a non-profit, Berkeley is unable to commercialize the cool technologies being developed on campus, so they have to look at things differently than many of their research and development counterparts. Top of the list: they must find industry partners to license their IP. This takes time, instinctive focus and without a doubt, stamina.

Akash Bakshi, Berkeley’s resident IP and industry research authority, knows all about trusting his instincts and building stamina. He singularly held 59 BIO One-on-One Partnering™ meetings last year at the BIO International Convention in San Francisco; with a remarkable 75% follow-up return – an accomplishment he says required first and foremost, persistence.

Breaking Buzz talks with the persistent partnering Phenom in a recent interview:

AKASH:  Be persistent because companies are busy. Don’t leave it to them to sort though and find your invitation. If you haven’t heard back and your gut tells you there’s a good reason to connect, persist!

BB: There are thousands of companies within the partnering system. How do you know who to pursue?

AKASH: I look for companies that overlap with our research strengths – whether in biomedical engineering, immunology, or molecular and cellular biology, companies who seek new insight in the life sciences. Those are the ones that always make great partners!

BB: Can you tell us more about what happened after the 59 meetings in San Francisco last year?

AKASH: Almost 75% of the meetings we set up last year resulted in further discussions about UC Berkeley’s Innovation Ecosystem, IP licensing, and even employment for our students. I attribute the high return rate on Berkeley’s breadth and research strengths. People understand we are a powerhouse for early-stage R&D. Industry knows we have the intellectual capital to do amazing stuff.

BB: How do you characterize a successful Partnering experience?

AKASH: Some folks might assess their success at BIO as the number of transactions that were completed; our view is that this is more about relationships. Success comes anytime we can collaborate to improve or validate early-stage findings and licensing IP; when we get feedback on potential technologies, investments and funding for our startups, and the hiring of our graduates.

The other side of the story is that we get good insight from industry about why they were NOT currently interested in the ideas we presented – it might be because regulatory hurdles are too high, or the project is too small. Regardless, it’s allowed me to give feedback to the faculty member to rethink the original applications.

BB: Who is on your radar as we approach the BIO International Convention in San Diego?

AKASH:  There are updates that I’m eager to share with some of the people I met with last year in San Francisco. But I’m just as excited about finding new partners this June in San Diego; companies that share our quest for innovation in the life sciences.

BB: Sounds like you’ll have another very busy BIO experience. How do you do it?

AKASH: This year there will be two of us, so my record of 59 meetings will hopefully double. But ultimately, I focus on the satisfaction I get from finding and developing ongoing relationships within an industry I love.

Well that, and a steady stream of Venti Caffe Lattes!