OMRF’s Manu Nair discusses commercializing technologies.
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Q: You most recently worked for the prestigious Mayo Clinic. Why did you leave there to join the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation?
A: It may not be as well known in Oklahoma, but OMRF is prestigious too. In the world of biotherapeutics, OMRF is known around the world for the caliber of our researchers and the quality of work our scientists do. The foundation has a strong portfolio of discoveries that are ripe for commercialization. I’m looking forward to building a team and finding development partners so we can put OMRF breakthroughs to work benefiting patients.
Q: What did you learn at Mayo that can be replicated at OMRF?
A: I learned that technology ventures have to be run as a proactive business. At the Mayo Clinic, they look at technologies as they come in and make patenting decisions based on commercial potential. They have a “cradle-to-grave” model with the infrastructure to move discoveries from the lab to the market. Oklahoma has some of the pieces in place to do the same thing. We need to fill in the gaps so we can become a true competitor.
Q: How do you keep up with the science?
A: My background is law and business. I don’t have a science degree. What I do have is a passion for the field, so I read a lot. I pay attention to what other institutions are doing, and I subscribe to a number of publications to make sure I know where the field is moving. That puts me in a position to at least be conversant when I talk to our scientists, who are, of course, experts in their fields.
Q: How do you make money with obscure medical discoveries?
A: Not every discovery is going to make money, but obscurity doesn’t mean a discovery isn’t worth pursuing. Part of our role is evaluating technologies. We look at the purpose: Is it a therapeutic? Is it a diagnostic? Is it a research tool that will help other labs? Really, it comes down to knowing what we have — which requires me to be in close contact with our researchers — and knowing what drug companies, investors and other researchers are interested in developing. It’s a matchmaking role in many ways.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER