Business and Commercialization

Business careers in science-intensive industries can involve performing or managing research and development, consulting, clinical development if in healthcare, manufacturing, sales, marketing, or business development. All of these domains are deeply informed by the underlying science involved, with an overlay of additional challenges added by consideration of timelines, risk, valuation, investment and return, intellectual property, industry structure, manufacturing and distribution costs, pricing, and strategy. Work environments place a premium on teamwork, with associated skills related to management of people, organization, communication, negotiation, and leadership. Often, new discoveries emerge from the biomedical sciences fields, making advanced training advantageous for many start-up ventures and entrepreneurs. Scientists in the field of technology transfer work to commercialize research by evaluating the commercial merit of discoveries, protecting them with copyrights and patents and then licensing them to companies, either established or new.

Examples of institutions where you could work in this field:

Start-up Incubators
Venture Capital Firms
Technology Transfer Departments at Universities and Hospitals

Examples of job titles that you might find at those institutions:

Consultant, Associate, Innovation Pipeline Manager, Project Manager, Team Lead, Entrepreneur, Equity Research Associate, Market Research Analyst, Sales Specialist

Professional societies that are relevant to this career category:

Association of University Technology Managers, Association of Commercial Professionals-Life SciencesNational Association of Sales Professionals, International Society for Professional Innovation Management,  International Association of Innovation Professionals


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Alumni Working in Business & Commercialization

Maryam Saleh

PhD Computational Neuroscience 2011 Director of Member Experience, MATTER, Chicago

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
I took several courses at the Booth school of business and tried to network outside of my academic circle.

What are the typical things your job entails each day? I am working on designing initiatives and programs between different stakeholders in healthcare in the Chicago region, with the goal of growing healthcare innovation in Chicago. Most of my day is spent meeting with life science entrepreneurs, professional organizations in medicine, healthcare-related companies to understand their needs and interest in innovation and design a program or experience that addresses their needs.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? My job involves a lot of quick creative thinking and a decent understanding of issues in healthcare. I get a lot of satisfaction when I help people understand each others’ point of view. I also get a lot of satisfaction from bringing people together to work on something that matters – improving healthcare.

Michael Seiler

PhD Immunology 2011
Manager, Scientific Marketing, Taconic

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
I viewed my time as a Postdoc as two roles, with priority ranked as follows:
A. Conduct exemplary science
B. Use the extensive University of Chicago Resources to build value in fields away from the bench, in areas of business, finance, management.
In some cases the resources already existed (PDA; I was Vice President for 2 years), NPA (Fundraising committee chair, 2 years). In other cases the tools were present but the infrastructure was not; In this case, I leveraged the tools to create something new: I founded UCBA and helped establish the CIM fellows program. Building these relationships at UChicago allowed me to compete in the Booth School of Business New Venture Challenge and further my networking reach.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
My job involves many aspects of science and business development. I work with sales, finance, and executive leadership to predict the value of new products. I set pricing based on market trends. I set revenue goals based on prior year, and expected sales, and coordinate marketing campaigns to achieve them. I also function as subject matter expert in immunology and deliver platform presentations on new products at scientific meetings, trade shows, and as invited guest at client sites.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I very much enjoy learning how pharma and biotech companies take advantage of new animal models for drug development. For example, there is a strong push from pharma to use humanized immune system mice in the development of next generation oncology treatments. Because our mouse models are so novel and complex, I am required to stay on top of the field. Clients expect to discuss scientific processes with subject matter experts, and this expectation means staying on top of the latest developments in immunology research. I use many of the skills and contextual knowledge I learned in the Bendelac lab to build client confidence.

Thelma Tennant

PhD Cancer Biology 2003
Assistant Director, UChicagoTech, University of Chicago

What did you do as a trainee to prepare for your current career?
Aside from technical familiarity on particulars of cancer research that I gained as a graduate student, what my graduate work prepared me best for in my current career is that I developed the skill to find and analyze scientific information and data, and learned how to communicate complex scientific concepts effectively in a variety of modes, including verbal, written, and visual. The technology transfer position requires developing proficiency in licensing and negotiation and in patent law and IP management, and these are not typically acquired in a science graduate program. At UChicagoTech, we utilize on-the-job training combined with some available external training programs to get new project managers up to speed.

What are the typical things your job entails each day?
I manage over 300 intellectual property portfolios from the University of Chicago across a range of disciplines (not all scientific). I interface with faculty, students and postdocs to learn about new technologies and inventions that have been developed here, and I assess those technologies from both a commercial and an intellectual property perspective. I work with patent attorneys to file and prosecute patent applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office and international counterparts, and I work with business development professionals to market and license technologies. After technologies are licensed, I manage the relationship with the licensee and monitor the development of the technology by the licensee. I also work with other offices at the University to identify and transact new opportunities for collaboration between researchers and companies, and I review and negotiate intellectual property terms in grants that faculty receive. Finally, part of our job is also education, and staff in our office (including myself) regularly give talks and seminars on tech-transfer related topics, both at the University and externally.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love my job because I am working on the absolute cutting edge of research that may translate to benefit society, and my efforts to bridge the gap between discovery and development make it possible for great research to connect with commercial partners that will help it become useful products.