September 19, 2011 — Michael P. Straightiff has been named director of the University of Virginia Patent Foundation, effective Sept. 21. His appointment marks an important shift for the organization, as the Patent Foundation adopts an expanded focus on business development, said W. Mark Crowell, executive director and associate vice president for innovation partnerships and commercialization.
"I am ecstatic that we were able to recruit someone with the talent and energy of Michael Straightiff, whose background includes success in forming new businesses, raising investment capital and licensing intellectual property," said Crowell, who is also a member of the Patent Foundation board of directors.
"His unique insight on innovation management and translational research will help to strengthen the Patent Foundation's efforts to support the University's inventive researchers and, increasingly, entrepreneurs as we work to enhance the innovation ecosystem at U.Va. and in central Virginia."
Currently director of biomedical engineering commercialization in Case Western Reserve University's Technology Transfer Office, Straightiff manages high-profile research, development and commercialization partnerships with several large biomedical technology companies. He has also been involved in the formation of companies spun out of Case, in coordination with Case Technology Ventures and the local investment community. Straightiff serves on the board of directors for a venture-backed neurostimulation company and an early-stage biomedical imaging company.
Dr. Erik L. Hewlett, chairman of the Patent Foundation board and of the search committee that recommended Straightiff, said the Patent Foundation will continue to manage and commercialize the innovative technological discoveries generated by the University community while U.Va. and Patent Foundation officials further develop an integrated model for enhanced service to U.Va. inventors.
"It is with great pleasure that we welcome Michael Straightiff as director of the U.Va. Patent Foundation," said Hewlett, a professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health in the School of Medicine. "Michael has the ideal background, experience, philosophy and spirit to lead the foundation as the enhanced working relationship with the University matures."
Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research, said, "U.Va. is deeply committed to playing a central role in winning America's future. One critical path to that goal is through the dissemination of new knowledge that creates high-value jobs and economic strength, and we are confident that Michael brings a highly creative approach to building the University's innovation enterprise."
Straightiff also brings to U.Va. experience with the Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Partnership, a highly selective program which supports the promotion of biomedical innovations to the marketplace. U.Va. and Case were among the original 10 institutions to receive a Translational Research Partnership Award from the Coulter Foundation in 2006. In May, U.Va. announced the creation of a $20 million endowment for translational biomedical research, supported equally by the University and the Coulter Foundation.
At Case, Straightiff served on the institutional oversight committee for the Coulter partnership. "While at Case, Michael showed great leadership and made strong contributions as part of the Coulter team, and we look forward to working more closely with him through the U.Va.-Coulter endowment program," said Mara Neal, director of research awards for the Coulter Foundation and manager of the U.Va.-Coulter partnership.
James P. Landers, a chemistry professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, said Straightiff will help to "reinvigorate" faculty and encourage them to continue inventing at U.Va.
"Michael's enthusiastic personality comes with a new vision for the Patent Foundation, one that is consistent with retooling entrepreneurship here at U.Va. through Mark Crowell," Landers said. "Michael will help provide a new framework for a young and energetic Patent Foundation staff to work more closely with faculty in a way that enhances our understanding of commercialization and our chances of getting on the national entrepreneurial map."
Landers, who holds joint appointments in mechanical engineering and pathology, co-founded MicroLab Diagnostics Inc. in 2003 to commercialize his innovative "lab-on-a-chip" technology, which miniaturizes and streamlines the chemical processes involved in biochemical analysis, such as DNA testing. MicroLab was acquired by ZyGEM Corp. Ltd., in May 2010, with Landers now serving as ZyGEM's chief scientific officer.
Straightiff previously was a senior licensing associate and a consultant for Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc., where he managed a diverse portfolio of technologies in engineering, physical sciences and life sciences. He also worked as a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after serving as research assistant at the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation Center.
"The University of Virginia is an exceptional institution with world-class faculty, students, research and patient care," Straightiff said. "These resources, coupled with strong institutional commitments to industrial partnerships and commercialization, create a critical component of a robust innovation economy. I'm eager to join the University of Virginia community and to help advance its business development, licensing and new venture creation activity."
He earned his master's in business administration from Case, where he also earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering. He holds a master of public policy degree, with a concentration in science and technology policy, from George Mason University.
Straightiff is a member of the Association of University Technology Managers, the Licensing Executives Society and the Biomedical Engineering Society.
About the University of Virginia Patent Foundation
Established in 1977, the University of Virginia Patent Foundation is a national leader in technology transfer. The Patent Foundation has put more than 600 of the University's early-stage research discoveries on the path to commercialization through effective partnerships with industry. A nonprofit organization dedicated to serving U.Va. researchers, the Patent Foundation has distributed more than $40 million in revenues to the University and more than $21 million to U.Va. inventors since its inception.
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