Meet Michael Straightiff, MBA, MPP, Executive Director of UVA Licensing & Ventures Group

Michael Straightiff, MBA, MPP, Executive Director of UVA Licensing & Ventures Group

What services does UVA Licensing & Ventures Group provide to faculty?

Michael Straightiff, MBA, MPP, Executive Director of UVA Licensing & Ventures Group (UVA LVG) answers that question and more.

This post is part of a series of interviews with faculty and staff who offer resources to SOM faculty. Stay tuned for more interviews with your colleagues!

Q: Can you tell us about the services that the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group offers to faculty?

UVA LVG is the full service intellectual property management and innovation commercialization enterprise for the University. Our job is to support university faculty, staff, and students in their efforts to maximize the impact of their research discoveries. We spend a lot of time talking about dissemination of knowledge, and, in many cases the best way to disseminate certain knowledge to benefit society is via commercialization.

Our office solicits invention disclosures from faculty, staff, and students and works with those innovative teams to push their assets from ideation, ultimately through to commercialization. That process includes intellectual property management – patent filing and copyright filing – and supporting the translational research infrastructure that exists at UVA. It involves business development: engaging with the outside world and trying to drive transactions, either license agreements or sponsored research, back to the University again to help progress the assets. It involves advising on experimental design for patentability or for commercialization. We really try to engage very, very early and very, very often, particularly in those spaces where we think we can help nudge research down a more commercially viable path.

Q: At what point should a faculty member get in touch with you, if they think that they have an idea that could make its way to commercialization?

As soon as you believe you have anything that may lend itself toward ultimate commercial outcomes, you should reach out to LVG. Ideally, at the beginning of any translational research project. It may be that the researcher’s response is, “This work is just a little bit too early, and we’d like to see this additional experiment or this additional data,” but the earlier the engagement, the better. This is a collaborative process, so we will assign our team members to work with faculty throughout that developmental process, as a complement to the University research program.

Q: Several success stories have come out of LVG. Is there one in particular that you could tell us about?

Sure! In 2014, we launched a company called Type Zero Technologies to commercialize Dr. Boris Kovatchev’s portfolio of continuous blood glucose monitoring technologies to inform insulin delivery in an artificial pancreas. We invested in Type Zero via the UVA LVG Seed Fund. A UVA alum came back and became the CEO of the company and ultimately has distributed products that we hope to be commercially available within the next year or so. However, in June, the company was acquired by Dexcom, which is a major multinational, multibillion dollar publicly traded medical device company. So, we were very excited to see, with Boris’ portfolio, a lot of wonderful attributes. It was the School of Medicine collaborating with Engineering. University philanthropic translational research funds were involved. LVG brought on an entrepreneur; we invested in the company. It’s a large intellectual property portfolio that’s been prosecuted to issuance, using many different University and UVA LVG touchpoints.

Q: I know a lot of faculty are excited about the Biocomplexity Initiative that UVA is developing. Is LVG working with that initiative?

LVG is becoming routinely involved in UVA’s faculty recruiting efforts, as there is an increasing interest in knowing what commercialization resources are available at UVA. I met Chris [Barrett, who is leading the Biocomplexity Initiative] during his interview process, and we’ve already started working to understand the intellectual property portfolios that they created at Virginia Tech. We’re working with them to identify ways to now create new and improved intellectual property portfolios at UVA. I would imagine Chris and his team will be the source of lots of inventive activities and new ventures in the not too distant future.

Q: How long have you been at UVA and where were you before you came to UVA?

I joined UVA in 2011 from my alma mater, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where I was working in the tech transfer offices, as the Director of Biomedical Engineering Commercialization. My first job out of college was at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. I then worked at Virginia Tech as a Senior Licensing Associate before joining Case Western.

Q: How did you get into tech transfer services?

I studied biomedical engineering as an undergrad. When I graduated, I still wanted to leverage my knowledge of science and technology, but not in a way of engineering devices. So, I got into the field of intellectual property and kind of just fell in love with the interdisciplinary nature. It’s the confluence of business, law, science, and technology all together. And that’s really interesting.

Q: Do you have any kids or for babies at home that you’d like to tell us about?

I have two daughters. I have four-year-old, Sadie and nine-month-old Maeve. They’re just fun and full of energy. The baby’s crawling all over the house now, and Sadie’s enjoying preschool.

Q: Do you have a favorite restaurant or hangout spot?

My favorite restaurant is Tavola.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share with faculty?

The next big event that we’re working on is our Innovator of the Year, which is a celebration of an innovator or innovative team at UVA whose research, discoveries, or innovations have made a major impact on society. That nomination process is going to be starting very soon. Please look out for that and please think about your colleagues and your research and let us know if you think that person should be recognized as the innovator of the year.

Read more about UVA LVG: https://lvg.virginia.edu.
At the bottom of their homepage, you can sign up for the UVA LVG newsletter.
Follow UVA LVG on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uvalvg/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/UVALVG
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/university-of-virginia-patent-foundation/

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