I recently saw a headline stating that the research antibodies and reagents market is projected to reach USD 16.1 billion by 2027.  My first thought was WOW, that’s a big number.  My second thought was WHAT A COINCIDENCE, I just had another inquiry from Pharma requesting a license for a cell line.  So here we are with my first contribution to the OICP blog page, how to determine if your research tools might be licensable.

When we think about successfully licensed university innovations, the first thing to come to mind is probably NOT a research reagent.  But if the above projection, which is based on growing demand for personalized medicine, structure-based drug design, proteomics and genomics research, is even partially accurate, perhaps we should?   It is likely that you have created such reagents, perhaps for a specific experiment or to obtain data for a publication or grant proposal.  You may have even tried to find materials from a supplier and ended up making your own because they weren’t available. Obviously not all of these will have commercial potential, and many will not.  So how do you know if your research tool may have commercial potential?

I approach this with four questions:

  • Was it difficult to create? 
  • Would it be useful to others?
  • Has it been published and have others requested it? 
  • Can it be used in drug development or some other commercial process?

As the creator of these materials, you can certainly share them with fellow researchers under a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) and doing so is integral to the progression of research and is a requirement under some funding agencies.  But if you answered yes to any of the above, and especially if you have multiple requests and/or if commercial entities are reaching out to you, that may a good indicator of commercial potential.  Isn’t that worth exploring? 

A couple of examples of license arrangements for research tools include commercial reagent suppliers and pharmaceutical companies.  Suppliers are interested in providing reagents to the research community; novel antibodies, cell lines, chemicals, enzyme’s, plasmids, proteins, media, etc. can be licensed to these vendors and they in turn are granted permission to provide them for specified uses.  This model can help relieve investigators from supplying their materials to fellow researchers when the burden becomes excessive.  Pharmaceutical companies can look to academia for cell lines and mouse models that are useful in drug discovery and development; they may discover these assets in your publications and published grant applications and may be willing to license them rather than devote time and resources to creating their own.  

And this brings me back to my inquiry from Pharma for the cell line and my reason for the blog.  Did I mention this cell line is one of our most frequently licensed assets?  Did I mention that research tools don’t typically require patent protection in order to be licensed and generate revenue?  Did I mention that the revenue received is shared with you, the inventor, per the University IP policy? 

So, the next time you create a research tool that you think may have commercial value, please do come see us – it IS worth exploring and we look forward to exploring that possibility with you.