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NIH Launches Online Tech Transfer System

By Matt Jones

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health's Office of Technology Transfer has launched an online resource aimed at streamlining and speeding up the process by which companies access technologies developed by researchers in NIH's intramural programs.

The electronic Research Materials catalogue (eRMa) was designed to make it faster and easier for companies to acquire licenses for NIH materials through online purchasing. This move to electronic payment and licensing could speed up the process for accessing such materials from periods as long as six months to a few days, NIH said on Monday.

These materials, which were developed by researchers in NIH and US Food and Drug Administration labs, include mouse models used in developing cancer therapies and cell lines for testing new therapies for chronic diseases.

The internal use license contract, which companies will be able to complete through eRMA, governs the transfer of tangible research materials from NIH to a company for commercial use.

The eRMa resource will provide a website for companies to find and license unpatented materials using a '"ready-to-go" contract, allow for online payments, enable faster receipt of materials, and provide a faster turn-around time and a simpler process, NIH said.

"To stay competitive in today's world, online ordering is a requirement. With the launch of this first-of-its kind system, OTT is demonstrating its intention to meet that challenge," OTT Director Mark Rohrbaugh said in a statement.

The effort is part of the Obama Administration's 'Startup America Initiative," an effort the White House unveiled last month to accelerate the transfer and commercialization of federal research into the marketplace.

Researchers will log into the systems and query for whatever unpatented materials they are looking for — cell lines, for example — just as with any other online purchasing system, OTT Deputy Director Bonny Harbinger told GenomeWeb Daily News today. "Everything is done through the system. There is no negotiating. There is no down-time in processing. We can, if everything goes smoothly, probably have it done within two days and have the materials shipped."

Harbinger explained that the new online system will be a marked improvement for the companies that use these materials.

"Previously, we didn't have an organized catalogue of the materials, and now you can go in and see, for example, if you are looking for a mouse model, what we have available," she said." You can then, without having to contact the licensing person, pick the one you want, agree to the predetermined terms of this license, which have been very streamlined, and then once the request is made you can pay through the government's version of PayPal, which is Pay.gov.

"Previously, you would negotiate the deal and then wait until it was sent back and forth for signing," said Harbinger. "And then you would get an invoice. And then you would pay. And then you would be notified that it was shipped. And then you would hope it was shipped."

NIH's OTT administers roughly $97 million annually in royalty payments from around 500 companies that reported product sales of approximately $6 billion last year.

NIH also said that to streamline the processes for non-profit institutes and universities to access unpatented NIH materials it plans to launch a web-based materials transfer agreements system in December. This Transfer Agreement Dashboard will simplify and accelerate access to antibodies, cell lines, compounds, DNA and RNA, proteins, plasmids, probes, and a range of other materials.

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