Columbia’s Orin Herskowitz Wins Bayh-Dole Award

February 27, 2023

Orin Herskowitz, Senior Vice President of Applied Innovation and Industry Partnerships at Columbia University and Executive Director of Columbia Technology Ventures, received the Bayh-Dole Award last week at AUTM’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

AUTM, a global non-profit whose members support the commercialization of academic research, gives the Bayh-Dole Award each year to someone who ardently supports the practice of technology transfer and contributes substantially to AUTM’s public policy and advocacy efforts. It is named after the Bayh-Dole Act, a federal law enacted in 1980 that enables universities to own, patent and commercialize inventions developed under federally funded research programs within their organizations.

Ian McClure, AUTM’s outgoing Chair, presented Herskowitz with the award, highlighted his track record of championing innovative projects that advance the tech transfer industry, and acknowledged his service on the Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

“In these roles and other initiatives, Orin continuously defends and advises the ecosystem about the importance of technology transfer and university commercialization,” McClure said. “He is truly a champion of Bayh-Dole.”

Herskowitz has led Columbia Technology Ventures (CTV), the tech transfer office for Columbia University, for the past 17 years. CTV’s core mission is to facilitate the transfer of inventions from academic research labs to the market for the benefit of society on a local, national, and global basis. Each year, CTV manages more than 400 invention disclosures, 100 license deals, and 20 - 30 new IP-backed startups, involving over 750 inventors across Columbia's campuses. CTV currently has over 1,500 patent assets available for licensing, across research fields such as medicine, bio, IT, cleantech, devices, big data, nanotechnology, materials science, and more.  

In his acceptance speech, Herskowitz explained how the impact of university tech transfer could be seen in his own family. On his father’s side, many male relatives had died from heart failure in their early fifties. By the time Herskowitz’s father reached that age, he was able to avoid heart failure through many cardiac interventions with roots in university research labs, such as the Abbott MitraClip, initially developed at Columbia.

Many of Herskowitz’s initiatives have focused on making interactions between tech transfer offices and industry faster and more efficient, such as the term sheet template for life science deals developed by CTV and peer tech transfer offices, law firms, and VCs to minimize time spent on negotiations.  Particularly for therapeutics, the sooner discoveries made in university research labs can be commercialized by industry, the more patients benefit.

Herskowitz was also instrumental in establishing the University Technology Licensing Program, a convenient way for industry to license a subset of universities' innovations in certain engineering-focused fields, such as connectivity, autonomous vehicles, and data, by creating patent pools designed to lower transaction costs.

Tech transfer initiatives such as these require close collaboration among many groups, including other universities, industry leaders, startups, and venture capitalists, who often have competing interests, but the ultimate goal is undoubtedly worthwhile.

“This job, this industry, and this mission is a privilege,” Herskowitz said. “It may be easy to forget it sometimes...but every day we have the chance to make the world a better place, and for that I think we all should be extremely grateful.”