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A Mission to "Help Inventors and Protect BC's Intellectual Property"

Wen settling in as director of technology transfer and licensing

02/28/13
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Office of Technology Transfer and Licensing Director Jason Wen joined the University in December. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: Feb. 27, 2013

Jason Wen, who negotiated multi-million dollar licensing agreements on behalf of the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, has joined Boston College as director of the Office of Technology Transfer and Licensing (OTTL).

Wen’s role is to protect the University’s intellectual property, including any research activity that may result in a patent or copyright.

“Although we are small, our office’s role is critical. We are here to help inventors and to protect BC’s intellectual property,” said Wen, who assumed the post in December. “What is a university about? It’s all knowledge. If we don’t pay attention to that, we lose a lot.”

Wen emphasized that OTTL is available to work with any member of the University — from undergraduate to senior faculty member — on issues related to intellectual property and industry collaboration.

He said it is imperative for inventors to contact his office early in the process, before research or discoveries are published in print or online or shared at a conference. “Once the idea is public, we have lost our opportunity to file an international patent application and it could damage BC’s and inventors’ interests significantly,” said Wen.

According to Wen, the first step for faculty, staff or students is to fill out an Invention Disclosure Form, found on the OTTL website, so the invention can be evaluated.

Wen admits that sometimes it is difficult for a faculty member to know if they are working on something that could be an invention or could be patentable.

“They should contact me as early as possible. We will discuss: What is patentable? Is there any commercial value?” said Wen. “We can do an early assessment and determine the potential or if we need more data.”

OTTL assumes the responsibility and expense of conducting market research, filing for the patent and negotiating the licensing. Licensing revenue is shared with the inventor(s). 

 “One of my goals is to increase the licensing revenue at BC. Many universities spend more on patenting than they make on licensing. I want to turn that around,” he added.

Wen is a registered technology transfer professional and a registered patent agent with the US Patent & Trademark Office. He was among the first to earn a Certified Licensing Professional credential, and he is a member of Licensing Executives Society and the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). He is participating this week in AUTM’s annual meeting in Texas, where he has been invited to serve as a judge and speaker.

As impressive as his credentials are, it is Wen’s unique background as a biomedical researcher with an MBA degree that makes him well-suited to lead the University’s tech transfer efforts, a position that demands knowledge of science, business and law.

After earning a PhD in molecular biology, Wen started his career as an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Though he had 10 years of research experience with grants and published papers, he yearned to have a greater impact on society.

“I wanted to do public good and help people. I decided that if I couldn’t do it with my research, then I wanted to help others’ research do that.”

Wen hit upon the idea of working in tech transfer, a then-emerging field. Although he had the scientific background necessary to evaluate technology, he lacked the business and law skills needed to do other aspects of the job. To compensate, he enrolled part-time in the University of Richmond and earned his MBA, and also completed a year of study in a JD program. Wen then worked in a pharmaceutical company and later in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Office of Industry Partnerships.

Most recently, he spent more than eight years as an assistant director in the Office of Technology Transfer at the world-class Cold Spring Harbor Lab, where several Nobel Prize winners have worked.

Among his objectives at BC, Wen is interested in building OTTL’s external relationships with industry partners in order to take advantage of possible funding opportunities. In his previous post, Wen obtained funding for principal investigators from companies such as DuPont and Pfizer.

He also wants to conduct outreach with alumni, especially those who are entrepreneurs and investors.

Wen said OTTL has internship opportunities for BC undergraduates, graduate students, law students and postdocs who are interested in working in the field of tech transfer. Wen said it is an exciting opportunity that would provide invaluable professional experience.

“I love the BC setting. I enjoy it here. I see so much potential,” said Wen. “Boston is a great place to conduct tech transfer business. It is a highly educated city. There are entrepreneurs, investors, and technology all around here.”
He said he was drawn to Boston College because the University’s mission aligns with his own.

“BC is about helping people and benefitting society. I would feel so satisfied to see BC’s technology transferred to an industry and then become a product or service that benefits people.”

Jason Wen can be reached at ext. 2-1682 or jason.wen@bc.edu.