I have brought a number of ideas to the business office over the years of my working at UHN. In every case, I have encountered what I consider to be very conservative practices of the commercialization and development office personnel - their responses have been some version of "go speak to Dr. so-and-so, who is the expert in this topic, before proceeding with your idea", or "you would need to partner up with an existing large institution to fully enable this idea", or that they don't see the market, or opportunity, that the idea potentially represents. I realize not all ideas are gold winners, but in general I have a pessimistic view of how well the commercialization office can truly carry out it's mandate when I see it as stifling ideas before they even have the opportunity to be tested. What is the plan for modernizing the office, and perhaps shaking off some of the conservativeness and embracing new ideas?


Excellent point. When I was in pharma, I had my share of general complaints about tech transfer offices, and now that I have been on the other side of the table for a couple of years at UHN, I am aware of (and concerned with) criticisms from frustrated investigators. There are valid concerns on both sides. So I think it’s worth acknowledging that technology development and commercialization at UHN can and should continue to improve to better meet our customers’ (namely you, the research community) needs--at least that’s the mission of this office. It’s also worth reminding everyone that the process of transforming early stage research innovations into development candidates is very difficult, expensive and risky--it’s called the “valley of death” for good reason.  

You identify all of the key evaluation criteria required for the determination that a technology can be successfully commercialized: the potential for a commercial investment or partnership to develop it, a sufficient market to support its commercialization, and a level of expertise around the idea and its surrounding thought spaces. In particular, a certain amount of robustness of information around a given idea is required in order to de-risk it from an investment perspective; this lies within the context of what our experience dictates companies will invest in. Investment, particularly in early-stage technologies, is becoming increasingly conservative (i.e. risk-averse), and therefore for a technology to be attractive to an industry partner, it needs to have been substantially de-risked beforehand.

TDC has undergone significant changes in the last couple of years to become more transparent, efficient, market-oriented, and client-focused, with better access to market intelligence and funds for commercial proof of concept development. Developing a robust IP portfolio for commercialization, and the strengthening of relationships with researchers across the network of research institutes are two of our highest priorities. 
Our mission is to help inventors such as yourself with Intellectual Property protection and the translation to the market of inventions that meet the relevant criteria for successful commercialization. Many great ideas do not, despite their innovation, have real commercial potential, though they may be significant scientific discoveries. Our team examines each invention brought to us on a case-by-case basis against all the relevant criteria that make a great idea realizable in the marketplace. If you think we have overlooked a good commercial opportunity, we would be glad to take a second look. And we will work with each inventor to identify how the robustness required for successful commercialization can be built in cases where that gap may exist. 

John Reid
Director, Technology Development and Commercialization Office