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Students, employees, and professors at a research institution generally pledge that in the event they make some interesting, potentially money-making discovery, they’ll notify their institution’s tech transfer office.

This office can go by many different names; some are “technology licensing offices,” others will throw an “innovation” or “knowledge” in there for good measure. But they all serve similar purposes: to ensure the institution and the public will benefit from the intellectual property created under its auspices.


One of the most straightforward ways that an institution can benefit from its intellectual property is allowing a company to use its patents — for a price. These kinds of deals have been foundational for biotech companies since the very beginning of the industry. And if negotiated well, they can create a windfall for universities; a licensing deal for some of the research behind the nerve pain drug Lyrica, for example, has generated more than $1 billion for Northwestern.

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