Meet Jason Abair, associate vice president of the Office of Technology Transfer at UTMB Health. He is responsible for the team of professionals who facilitate UTMB's interactions with other universities and companies in the research, development, and commercialization of health care innovations discovered at UTMB Health.
Prior to his arrival at UTMB at the end of 2010, Abair had more than 10 years of experience as a patent attorney, during which he spent a significant amount of time working as outside counsel for Merck & Co., Inc. on the patent protection of its Fosamax, Singulair, Temodar, and Nasonex pharmaceutical franchises, other pharmaceutical companies, and medical device companies.
What does the Road Ahead look like for you?
In the Office of Technology Transfer, we are primarily concerned with seeking intellectual property protection for health care innovations discovered by our talented researchers at UTMB and seeking appropriate partners in industry to perform further research and development. We want to find the ways for technology invented at UTMB to make a difference in the lives of patients who are in need of innovative disease therapies.
This is an exciting time to be a part of UTMB. We have an extremely talented group of researchers who are tackling some of our most urgent disease challenges. We have a tremendous amount of physical expansion planned, which will allow UTMB Health to recruit and retain some of the world’s top talent in medical research. UTMB is also fortunate to have a very collaborative spirit among its researchers. With this set of unique circumstances, we are well-positioned to evolve into an even more prominent leading research center, regularly making breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of disease.
Over the course of the last year, we have been diligently restructuring the Office of Technology Transfer to be prepared for the future. We have a talented and dedicated staff. Our associate director, Sundeep Mattamana, has substantial experience working with our faculty on licensing and start-up companies. We recently hired our own patent attorney, Dana Buschmann, who has substantial experience as a private patent attorney and has worked with some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Frances Streeter is a legal officer who is experienced in working with privately sponsored research agreements and export control issues. Matt Grove, associate legal officer, recently joined us and handles material transfer agreements and confidential disclosure agreements. We have strived to bring in the right skill sets to make the Office of Technology Transfer a model for the way that technology transfer should be handled and to best serve UTMB Health’s research community.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect of my job is reaching out to our researchers and introducing them to our services. The Office of Technology Transfer has historically had a low profile at UTMB, and we need to change that. Ultimately, every researcher wants their research to have a meaningful difference for patients, and technology transfer is essential to that process. It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain federal funding for research, and private research sponsors generally want to work with a technology transfer office that understands the concerns of private industry and intellectual property. We need to provide world-class technology transfer services to our world-class researchers.
The most rewarding aspect of my job is working with our talented researchers and having a front row seat to their work. I really enjoy coming to work every day.
What is the one thing most people don’t know about you?
Technology transfer is important to me from a very personal perspective. I am an insulin dependent diabetic. I have successfully treated my diabetes for over 20 years with an insulin pump. Over the last 20 years, I have seen remarkable innovations in diabetes treatment, including tubeless insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitoring, and fast-acting insulins. None of these innovations could have occurred if the right technology transfer practices were not in place.
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?
My list is way too long! I would love to visit the Greek Isles, Italy, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. I would also love to take an African safari and spend a few months sailing through the South Pacific. In the meantime, working on a subtropical barrier island at UTMB Health is pretty amazing.
What is your favorite book?
John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.”
What have you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
My wife and I have two beautiful children (age 4 years and 17 months, both delivered by doctors at UTMB, by the way!). When we successfully raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids, we will be very happy.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
When I was an outside patent attorney, I performed a lot of work for Merck & Co. At Merck’s corporate headquarters in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, there is a prominent plaque with a quote from George Merck: “We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.“.
This points out the most important principle in your professional life and your personal life. If you simply do the right thing, it is remarkable how the rest generally tends to take care of itself.
What three words would people most likely use to describe you?
Enthusiastic, diligent, and supportive.