Community Spotlight: Anna Mitsak, Technology Licensing Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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ANNA MITSAK* joined MIT’s Technology Licensing Office (TLO) as a Technology Licensing Associate in October 2012. She has participated in the negotiation and drafting of license, joint ownership and material transfer agreements. Other responsibilities include license compliance, statistical data and case/portfolio management. She holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan, where her thesis work focused on bone tissue engineering, specifically the effects of scaffold permeability and biologic factors on in vivo bone formation.
Addgene (AG) – How did you decide to pursue a career in technology transfer?
Anna Mitsak (AM) - During graduate school, I worked on several projects (aside from my Ph.D. research) that piqued my interest in the “business side” of biomedical research. I decided to explore opportunities that dealt with commercializing biomedical technologies. Because of its involvement in translating research into actual products, I knew that a position in tech transfer would give me experience in evaluating the commercial potential of new technologies, determining the patentability of an invention and negotiating licenses and other agreements. The engineering/scientist in me also enjoys being exposed to cutting edge research and interacting with top tier PIs.
AG – Are there any courses, seminars or other educational opportunities that you believe aspiring or new tech transfer professionals should consider?
AM - Michigan offered a course called “Biomedical Engineering Graduate Innovative Design” and was modeled on the “successful innovation value chain: idea generation; prioritization; funding; product development; distribution.” This exposed me to the entire process of developing biomedical technologies, from the identification of a problem to the development of a commercialization strategy. I would recommend that interested students take something similar as well as a few courses in IP law and finance.
Additionally, I have become involved in a number of organizations, such as the BioScience Network, The MIT Enterprise Forum, the Massachusetts Association of Technology Transfer Offices (MATTO), MassBIO and the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). These organizations host meetings, seminars and other events for those in the biotech and licensing communities and attract a wide range of individuals from many different sectors. The events are great opportunities for networking and for learning about the latest developments in the field. I find them valuable not only as a tech transfer professional but also as an early career professional still figuring out her career trajectory.
AG – What about the field of technology transfer has surprised you the most?
AM - I’ve been surprised by some of the negative perceptions of academic technology transfer that are sometimes held by those in industry. There can be a perception that university licenses contain unreasonable terms that don’t consider industry’s perspective. Industry and academia are such different worlds with often very different philosophies/business goals, which can make it difficult to see eye-to-eye. I have been fortunate to work at M.I.T. where we really try hard to be transparent with our licensees while also listening to their needs/concerns so that we can negotiate terms that make sense for both parties. By viewing our licensees as partners with a common goal, we are better positioned to construct license deals that are a win-win for both sides. This is another reason why I enjoy attending events with representatives from industry and academia – the more we can learn about how industry operates, the better off our license agreements will be.
AG – What is your favorite book and why? Please no spoilers!
AM - I read a lot, so I kind of hate this question! I can’t choose a single favorite book, but one of my favorite recently read books is Let’s Not Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. One way in which I judge a book (or a movie!) is through its ability to elicit an emotional response. This memoir depicts the author’s childhood in Africa and is at times hilarious and at others tragically sad. It was both eye-opening and inspirational to get a child’s perspective of what it was like to grow up with dysfunctional parents in unstable times. The stoicism with which the author speaks of her difficult upbringing is curious yet indicative of a child’s ability to recognize the good in all situations and persevere through hard times. Despite the often difficult and heartbreaking situations depicted in the book, I found myself not wanting to put it down because of the author’s engaging and honest writing style and fantastic character development.
* The views expressed above do not necessarily state or reflect the views of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Technology Licensing Office or Addgene. They were given in Ms. Anna Mitsak’s capacity as an individual and technology transfer professional.