Penn-Wharton Commercialization Workshop Returns for the First Time Since 2019

Professor David Hsu and participants

The Penn Wharton Commercialization Workshop returned for the first time since 2019, offering a three-day event tailored to faculty, scientists, clinicians, and post-docs looking to commercialize their research and launch a new venture. The event, a partnership between the Mack Institute and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, featured lectures, discussions, and practical exercises to help participants evaluate and develop business opportunities. 

This year’s 56 participants represented nearly every program across the Penn system, including Perelman Medical School, The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, CHOP, Penn Nursing, Penn Vet, Penn Engineering, Penn Dental, the Annenberg School of Communication, and the School of Arts and Sciences. While some participants had technologies they were actively working to commercialize, others were interested in a more general background on commercialization support at Penn. 

One participant, Ashley Osborne, a Fellow Physician in Neonatology at CHOP, is working on a chatbot for parents with babies in the NICU as part of her fellowship project. She became interested in possibly commercializing the technology after initial tests showed that it helped NICU parents reduce PTSD symptoms. 

Two other participants, Alexander Getka and Ashish Singh, work together in the Center for Biomedical Image Computing & Analytics at Perelman. They’ve created several open-source projects related to medical imaging and artificial intelligence and are interested in commercializing a brain mapping tool developed in their lab. Singh cited cloud-based services as one business model they are currently considering. 

The three-day event featured nine sessions taught by Wharton faculty and Penn-affiliated entrepreneurs. Speakers included Jeff Marrazzo, founder of Spark Therapeutics, the world’s first fully integrated, commercial gene therapy company; as well as Wharton’s Christian Terwiesch talking about innovation tournaments, the Weitzman School’s Sarah Rottenberg discussing design thinking, and Legal Studies’ Bob Borghese explaining laws and regulations relevant to entrepreneurship.

In his introductory remarks, the program’s Faculty Director, David Hsu, Richard A. Sapp Professor of Management, emphasized the crucial role of technology transfer in sustaining a thriving university system.

“We’re aware at research universities how reliant we typically are on the endowment payout to fund our operations, teaching and research,” he said. “What many don’t realize is that technology transfer income typically provides about a fifth of the income as that provided by the average endowment payout for research universities in the US. At Penn this past year, we were fortunate to realize about a billion dollars of income from our technology transfer operations, ranking us at the top of US universities.” 

Both Hsu and Mack Institute Executive Director Valery Yakubovich spoke of the importance of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and other means of breaking down silos between schools and departments at Penn.  

“If you have questions, if you have an idea, come to talk to us,” said Yakubovich. “We want to hear it.”  

Hsu added, “As great as the programming we have planned is, what’s as important is the conversations you have and connections you make.”