6 Super Tech Transfer Tips for Life Science Entrepreneurs

For the August edition of Drugs & Dealers, we asked some of the UK’s leading biotech and life science translational experts, including Cancer Research TechnologyIsis InnovationThe Wellcome Trust and Imperial Innovations what key pieces of advice they would impart to anyone looking to commercialise their research. We’ve distilled their answers into 6 simple rules to follow.



1. Get to your Tech Transfer Office early!

Almost every tech transfer expert we spoke to emphasised the need to engage early. Here are a few of the snippets from the interviews:

Linda Naylor, Executive Director and Head of Tech Transfer, ISIS, : My advice is simple: talk to us!  As early as they want, it doesn’t matter how early as far as we’re concerned.

Adam Stoten, Deputy Director, Tech Transfer, ISIS: I think managing expectations early on that this is what we need to reach a mutually beneficial result is key.

Adam Stoten, Deputy Director, Tech Transfer, ISIS: The ideal from my perspective is not for us to engage at the point at which an academic has made the greatest discovery, it’s in that research phase when they can see the research they are doing has the potential to yield commercially useful results, and to engage with us at that point to start and plan for that.

Tony Hickson, Director, Tech Transfer, Imperial Innovations: It’s never too early to approach the tech transfer office.

Keith Blundy, CEO, Cancer Research Technology:  Talk to us, have an on-going dialogue, because you never know what we might see in there that perhaps they haven’t or where a conversation might spark things between us.

2. Be prepared to listen to your TTO. Go with an open mind!

Make sure you have the right attitude when you approach your TTO. You might obviously have very strong views, but make sure you are willing to listen to what they say and realise they are fighting your corner:

Mike Capaldi, Director, Edinburgh BioQuarter: It’s your technology, and if you’ve got a vision of where it could go, push hard on that, but make sure you’re speaking to people who have good knowledge of the sector and can give you good guidance. But be prepared to listen and go with an open mind.  That’s really important.

Anne Lane, Executive Director, UCLB: First of all, there needs to be a mutual respect and appreciation for each other’s skills. Realise we are on their side, and we are trying to protect their interests.

3. Have intellectual property front of mind

You must always have intellectual property at the front of your mind. Think about it early, and think about the implications of your current actions on IP.

Mike Capaldi, Director, Edinburgh BioQuarter: Always think about your intellectual property… Sometimes when you go down a commercial route, there may be times when you aren’t able to publish. The short term ‘losses’ need to be considered against the longer term ‘gains’ in this respect.

4. Be flexible.

The journey to commercialisation is a long and sometimes ardous one. It really helps if you realise at the outset that you will need to be flexible. Anne Lane from UCLB reminds us:

Anne Lane, Executive Director, UCLB: Don’t be surprised if how the journey started isn’t how it ends up. There is a real need to be flexible at all times and appreciative that it isn’t always a straight and true journey

5. Do not fear the unknown!

It’s fine to not know how the journey will proceed, how to mobilize resources and how to make the idea a reality. TTO’s and translation experts are there to help you precisely that! Keith from CRT notes: 

Keith Blundy, CEO, Cancer Research Technology: I would say don’t be put off by the fear of the unknown.  Our job is there to help them with that and make it as easy as possible to bring resources, capabilities and knowledge on how to do those things. 

6. Understand your target product profile

Probably the single most important piece of advice experts gave centred around doing your homework and market research. Know the industry you want to penetrate, know how your product will be used, understand the competition and where you will fit in the landscape:

Adam Stoten, Deputy Director, Tech Transfer, ISIS: Understand in relation to your given technology what industry perceives as adequate proof of concept or proof of principle. 

Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development, Innovations, Wellcome Trust: I would say you really need to understand the target product profile. You really need to understand how your end user is going to use your product. Everything you do at an earlier stage has got to be aligned with this product profile.

Malcolm Skingle, Director Academic Liaison, GlaxoSmithKline: In terms of advice, I would say know your market, know where you fit in the competitive landscape.  If you start talking to a company and you clearly don’t know what the competition is then, particularly on the scientific side of things rather than the commercial side, you’re going to lose credibility. Do your homework, know your competition, know how it fits into the organisation that you’re trying to pitch to.

Tech transfer, translational funding and start up capital for biotechs is the focus of Biotech and Money’s August edition of Drugs & Dealers. This blog is part of a series on the topic. Check out my last blog piece on the challenges keeping translation experts awake at night.

Subscribe now to get access to all the exclusive interviews and features.


The release of the magazine coincides with our exclusive evening event on tech transfer and start up funding on Sept 4th, from 6-9pm at the Imperial Incubator.


Sponsored by Marks & Clerk LLP, the event will feature the following speakers:

  • Mike Capaldi, Director, Edinburgh BioQuarter 
  • Keith Blundy, CEO, Cancer Research Technology
  • Tony Hickson, Managing Director, Technology Transfer, Imperial Innovations
  • Simon Portman, Managing Associate, Marks & Clerk LLP
  • Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development, Innovations, Wellcome Trust
  • Allan Marchington, Partner, Life Sciences Investments, Apposite Capital 

Already registered to attend are delegates from: Imperial Innovations, Wellcome Trust, Edinburgh BioQuarter, Imperial College Health Partners, UCL Business, Isis Innovation, UCL Enterprise, UCL Partners, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Oxford Health Science Network, Apposite Capital, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Kings Health Partners, EAHSN, Magnus LIfe Science, Lincoln University, Index Ventures,  and several more…


Registration is £85 for Non-members, £45 for Members, Academics, TTOs and Start Ups

Hope you can join us!

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