Turning Technology Into Commerce

February 26, 2004

Mark Miester
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Louisiana start-up companies attracted $24.9 million in venture capital in 2003, less than 1 percent of the $18.1 billion invested nationwide, but according to Jake Maczuga, the new associate vice president for technology transfer and business development, it's not a lost cause.

maczuga"When I worked in North Carolina in the late '80s, it was considered to be something of a backwater," says Maczuga. "Then all of a sudden the biotechnology industry took off and we were ideally poised with three very prominent universities that
had significant research capabilities. I think we can do the same thing here. We already have a reputation in the biomedical arena as having good basic technology. It's just a matter of assembling those technology platforms in such a way that they make commercial sense."

Turning Tulane-developed technologies into properties that make commercial sense is Maczuga's job, and it's a job he's done for more than 20 years. Prior to joining Tulane, Maczuga was executive vice president of the Science and Technology Campus Corp., a technology-based new business incubator affiliated with Ohio State University.

At Scitech, Maczuga raised a $700,000 pre-seed fund for the College of Engineering, optioned a new phototonic router technology to a nascent start-up company, developed a $1.65 million early stage fund to address a need for pre-seed investment capital in central Ohio, and positioned a $20-$30 million early stage fund with university, private and state-affiliated limited partners. Prior to that, as president, CEO and managing partner of Kansas Innovation Corp., Maczuga worked closely with the University of Kansas, private non-profit entities and local government to create a regional innovation and commercialization center focusing on technology and technology-based new business.

Before that, he served as director of technology development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, where he managed the activities of the center's economic and corporate development division to support the commercialization of biotechnology statewide.

"My job at Tulane is to maintain and potentially enhance the performance of the office from a technology-transfer perspective," Maczuga says, "and to help the university evolve a set of policies and procedures that can assist in the outplacement of technology and start-up endeavors, working closely with faculty."

It's no accident that Maczuga often sounds equal parts scientist and manager. He earned a BS in biochemistry and an MS in chemical engineering from State University of New YorkyýBuffalo and worked for a number of Fortune 500 companies as an engineer before transitioning to business development.

"I was an atypical engineer," Maczuga says. "I always found myself wanting to get more involved in not only the technology but in the business-related components of the technology."

As a development engineer with Allied Chemical Co. in the early 1980s, Maczuga developed an expertise in patents and structuring businesses, so when a new center was founded to develop technology-based business opportunities in Western New York, Maczuga made the jump.

"I was one of the few people who could talk science with the faculty members and, having worked in industry, I understood what it took to make something a commercializable process," Maczuga says. Maczuga's interest in Tulane was spurred in part by what he views as an exceptionally healthy technology transfer program. "Typically, Tulane averages somewhere around $6 million in royalty revenue on $115 million of federally sponsored research," he says. "I came from Ohio State, which had roughly $450 million worth of federally sponsored research and for that same period it did $800,000 worth of royalty revenue. So they're less than 2 percent. We're at the 5 percent level with a substantially smaller research budget."

While Maczuga hasn't set specific goals yet, he hopes to build on that success and increase the level of royalty revenues at Tulane. "Louisiana, like other states, is trying to make a biomedical push, and what we're hoping to do is catalyze a couple or three of those endeavors at the very least every year." While technology transfer has economic development implications, Maczuga says that shouldn't overshadow the importance of generating a return for investors.

"One of the things I would hope to do is assemble an investment network so that when we do have a good opportunity we can bring it to people who are interested in not only getting a good return on their investment but in doing something for the state. "I think we've probably got a good dozen or so faculty members who have been approached in the recent past about starting up businesses based on their research activity," Maczuga says. "Now it's really a matter of trying to provide them some assistance, helping them to put together plans, formulating a series of strategies and really seeing whether or not those opportunities are fundable."

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