Montana State University

Rebecca Mahurin elected to nonprofit board that supports and advances the transfer of academic technology

November 15, 2016 -- MSU News Service

Rebecca Mahurin, director of special projects in MSU’s Office of Research and Economic Development, has been elected to the board of the Association of University Technology Managers, or AUTM, a nonprofit organization that supports and advances the transfer of academic technology globally. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

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Rebecca Mahurin, director of special projects in Montana State University's Office of Research and Economic Development, has been elected to the board of the Association of University Technology Managers, or AUTM, a nonprofit organization that supports and advances the transfer of academic technology globally.

This is Mahurin’s first stint on the board, which she describes as a strategic board, rather than a task-oriented board.

“We work with our advocates in Washington, D.C., to determine what’s happening with Supreme Court decisions that affect our profession and what’s happening in Congress, and figure out how to respond to that,” Mahurin said. “And, from that, we try to determine what is best for university technology transfer and develop best practices, moving those out to universities worldwide.”

Mahurin came to MSU 25 years ago, when she was hired to establish the Technology Transfer Office by Robert Swenson, then MSU vice president for research. The Bayh-Dole Act had just passed in Congress, allowing universities to retain ownership of technologies they developed under federal funding. The aim of the legislation was to incentivize the transfer of technologies to create companies and boost the sluggish economy. Prior to the legislation, technologies created with federal funding belonged to the government.

Prior to joining MSU, Mahurin, who holds a doctorate in veterinary science, worked for a small Bozeman-based technology company where she developed a medical device and gained FDA approval. It was during an unrelated meeting with Swenson that she learned of the office he wanted to open. By the time their meeting ended, Swenson had offered her the job in a profession that was in its infancy.

“It was a pioneering effort for all universities,” Mahurin said. “We began to develop best practices to understand what our state laws would allow us to do. We began to understand IRS regulations, which do overlay on tech transfer efforts.”

More than two decades later, many people still don’t know much about the technology transfer profession. Mahurin said one of her personal goals on the AUTM board is to change that, joking that, “after all this time, my dad still doesn’t know what it is I do.”

She also wants to use her time on the board to advocate for the technology transfer profession and create an understanding that its mission is about creating jobs.

“Technology transfer offices at universities do a lot of service, working directly with entrepreneurs,” Mahurin said. 

MSU’s Technology Transfer Office holds 265 licenses -- 30 percent of those with Montana companies.

“That’s a number we’re very proud of because it’s our preference to license or to start Montana companies around our technologies,” Mahurin said. “We think creating jobs is a big part of our mission. Certainly, transferring the technologies so they will help the intended customer or client is also a mission.”

In the past 15 years, MSU technologies licensed through the TTO have been the basis for more than 60 high-tech companies in Bozeman, including Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and Bridger Photonics, and have created even more jobs.

“There are hundreds of employees who are in positions in companies that have spun out of the university,” Mahurin said. “We’re now seeing the next generation of companies, especially in photonics.”

In 2014, Mahurin received the Economic Leadership Award at the Prospera Business Network’s annual Business Excellence Awards for her “substantial contributions to economic development throughout the state.” Prospera cited Mahurin’s role in creating a “nationally prominent university tech transfer program.”

Mahurin also played a key role in assembling MSU’s winning application in the “talent” category of the Association of Public and Land-grant UniversitiesInnovation and Economic Prosperity Awards, presented Sunday, Nov. 13, in Austin, Texas. To be eligible for the award, MSU first had to earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from APLU, which Mahurin also worked on. 

Mahurin is currently manager of special projects in the MSU Division of Health Sciences.

For more information about the Montana State University Technology Transfer Office, visit http://tto.montana.edu. For more information about the Association of University Technology Managers, go to http://www.autm.net.

Contact: Rebecca Mahurin, manager of special projects, MSU Division of Health Sciences, (406) 994-2752 or rmahurin@montana.edu

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