Students in the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Global MBA class of 2013 presented their projects from the Discovery to Market technology transfer course Dec. 6, 2012, at the Harbor East campus.
D2M, as the course is popularly known, begins during the second semester of the students’ first year in the Global MBA program and continues through the following fall. During the nearly year-long course, they are assigned projects and conduct extensive feasibility studies to determine if, and how, the inventions can be launched commercially. The projects originate primarily at the Johns Hopkins University’s Technology Transfer Office (JHTT) and Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design (CBID). Projects also have been provided by the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), based at Fort Detrick, Md., about 45 miles west of Baltimore.
The students consider a range of factors: Are similar products already in the marketplace? If so, how have they fared? Would the proposed invention face any hurdles in the form of existing patents? What kind of sales and revenue figures might the invention be expected to generate in five years? In 10 years? Should the inventors set up their own company, or should they license the idea to a company that might be better suited to the heavy lifting of manufacturing and marketing the product?
Once the students have answered these and other pertinent questions, they decide whether the inventions are marketable. If a product is deemed it a go, they recommend an appropriate business plan.
Of the 12 projects in this year’s course, all but one involved medical projects; the other was related to solar power. All four proposed innovations chosen for the public presentation had medical themes – an automated retinal camera (from TATRC), a diabetes therapy (from JHU’s Department of Medicine and Tech Transfer Office), a suturing method, and a treatment for macular degeneration (the latter two from CBID).
The audience of about 150 included the Global MBA students, Carey staffers, JHTT Executive Director Wes Blakeslee, TATRC Director Ronald Marchessault Jr., CBID Executive Director Youseph Yazdi, and Kieren Marr, a professor at JHU’s School of Medicine, who has served as a liaison between the medical school and the Carey Business School for the D2M course.
Toby Gordon, the Carey professor who directs D2M, reminded the audience that most students begin the course with virtually no experience in science or law. “But what this course does,” she said, “is help them learn how to learn the crucial scientific and legal aspects associated with projects like these, in order for them to then go and work on the business aspects.”
A few members of the 2012 charter class of the Global MBA program attended the presentations. One of them, Gabriel Plumer, who joined an innovation venture unit at pharmaceutical giant Merck just after graduating, spoke to the gathering about the valuable lessons he took from the D2M course.
“In my area at Merck, we get to evaluate new types of opportunities for commercialization, and the process we use is very similar to the process used in D2M,” Plumer said. “This course provides a really unique experience for students here. It’s the type of real-world experience you get when you come to the Carey Business School.”
Then, directing his comments to the students, he added, “I’m here to tell you that, yes, what you’re learning here can be used in the professional arena, and I’m using it right now in what I do at Merck.”
Blakeslee also took the microphone to note the value of putting business students to work on some of the many inventions and discoveries made at Johns Hopkins. Discovery to Market, he said, “has already grown to where it’s become one of the great offerings we have at this university.”