By Josh Thrall
April 3, 2013

A proposed Arizona House Bill could streamline the process by which ASU transfers technological research into the marketplace.

Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said she proposed House Bill 2566 to speed the approval process for this technology.

“Some of these things are cutting edge, and the sooner we get them in the public, the better it is for the University, the public and the state,” Carter said.

HB 2566 would streamline the process of technology transfer by sometimes allowing the University to participate in an approval process normally performed by the Arizona Board of Regents if this in the best interest of the University.

“It changes the process to approve technology transfer, because sometimes the ABOR process takes too long,” Carter said.

The nonprofit organization Arizona Technology Enterprises manages all of ASU’s intellectual property and technology transfer. When ASU develops new technology, AzTE is responsible for moving the invention from the lab to the marketplace, where investors and companies can make it more accessible to the public.

The bill passed the Arizona House of Representatives on March 4 and needs a rubber stamp from the Senate Rules Committee before going to the Senate floor.

ABOR must determine whether the transfer is in the best interest of the University, the state and the public. If AzTE submits a proposed transfer to ABOR to be reviewed, it must wait until the next time the board meets to receive approval.

Through AzTE, ASU faculty and staff have implemented portable metabolism trackers, pain-reduction technology that stimulates the nervous system and sensors that can detect asthma attacks before they occur as well as many other inventions.

According to ASU’s 2012 annual report, AzTE has submitted 1,371 invention disclosures, received 181 patents and created 42 start-up companies since its inception in 2003.

Charlie Lewis, vice president of venture development at AzTE, said when a new technology is approved by ABOR and does not have a company in place that could buy it, AzTE creates a start-up company.

The ASU faculty or staff member who developed the technology receives equity in the company and so does AzTE. AzTE uses the money it earns from start-up companies to invest in more research.

Lewis said HB 2566 would help facilitate the technology transfer process.

“It does take a lot of time to get a proposal to ABOR, and it always has to go through them,” he said. “If we had the flexibility to do it sometimes without the approval of ABOR it would probably be a good thing.”

Lewis said the start-ups are valuable to the public, and it would be beneficial to expedite their creation as much as possible.

“It’s all about doing something with the research that will have a societal impact,” Lewis said.

HealthTell Inc. is a spin-off from ASU’s Biodesign Institute that is developing technology that reads the characteristics of the antibodies in a person’s bloodstream and uses that information to detect the presence of diseases. The company was named the start-up company of the year by the Arizona Technology Council’s 2012 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation — a gala hosted by the council, which honors innovations.

Stephen Johnston, co-founder of HealthTell, said he was interested in the idea of speeding up the approval process.

“AzTE formed an agreement with (HealthTell) that had to be OK’d by ABOR,” Johnston said. “It probably took a couple of months.”

Johnston, also the director for the Center for Innovations in Medicine at the ASU Biodesign Institute, said he appreciates the mutually beneficial relationship between him and AzTE, but also said the process of technology transfer could be improved.

“Timing is really important in the commercialization of things,” Johnston said. “The faster, the simpler the better.”

HealthTell was founded on grant money received from the U.S. Department of Defense, so that it could develop tools to protect soldiers against bioterrorism. However, not every invention from ASU’s labs has an immediate source of federal funding.

ABOR spokeswoman Sarah Harper said the regents support HB 2566 and that the process of technology transfer should be made faster.

“The bill would have a positive impact on Arizona universities and the transfer of (intellectual property) into the marketplace,” Harper said. “It will streamline the process, and that’s good news.”