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New Member Spotlight: University of Utah

Keith Marmer

UIDP welcomes the University of Utah as a new member organization. We spoke with Keith Marmer, associate vice president for technology & venture commercialization and corporate partnerships, Center for Technology & Venture Commercialization at the University of Utah, about the university’s reasons for joining the UIDP family.

UIDP: What does the University of Utah hope to gain from UIDP membership in the coming year? 

Marmer: The University of Utah has been increasingly expanding our engagement with industry on a number of levels: by department, by college, and, more recently, university leadership has tasked us with growing corporate engagement more broadly. UIDP really is the perfect resource for us to get both that direct engagement with the right folks at various industry levels to establish partnerships, as well as to deepen our knowledge base and our resources to support these efforts.

UIDP: What are the current challenges that the University of Utah is facing in the development of university-industry partnerships?

Marmer: One is simply the fact that we’ve grown as a research institution over the last several years. Last year we eclipsed the $500 million annual research mark. This year we were invited to join the AAU. But with all that growth and recognition, it’s not broadly known in industry that the university has become a research and innovation engine. One of the challenges is engaging in a scalable way and in a manner that will lead to broad impact.

In the local community, we’ve had industry engagement for decades. Now, as we’ve grown on the national and international stage, we’re looking to broaden that engagement. Despite the challenges presented by rapid growth, we’re trying to take advantage of the many opportunities to broaden our reach that are coming up as well.

UIDP: In what innovative ways is the University of Utah making an impact on U-I interactions?

Marmer: One of the ways we’ve engaged in university-industry interaction over the last 10 to 15 years has been with a lot of our startup companies. We’ve built out a lot infrastructure to support their growth to get them to be able to scale.

One of those innovative approaches is continually being engaged with the company, not just from a technology transfer perspective where you’ve got a license and maybe equity in the company, but also thinking about how those companies grow and continue to leverage the resources of the university with their growth. That gives a broad partnership flavor to the relationship, whether that comes with sponsored research or workforce development to bring students into the workforce. We’re looking at several hundred companies we’ve helped launch for ways to increase engagement.

UIDP: Can you share an example of a particularly successful U-I project or partnership?

We launched a partnership with a Utah startup company called Recursion Pharmaceuticals, which is right at the nexus of drug discovery and AI, with technology developed here at the University of Utah. They’ve grown and become a very successful company and are as committed to the region as we are. We’ve partnered with them to open the first wet lab incubator in the state to help support the next generation of growth of life science companies here in Utah, whether they’re spinning out of the University of Utah, or moving here from other parts of the world, or developed through the private sector. It’s a great example of a university-industry partnership where we’re each committing resources to support a pretty significant infrastructure that will provide benefit back not only to the institution, but to the ecosystem as well. We anticipate opening and occupancy by the first incubator companies in early 2020.