Technology Transfer at the VA
Learn about Technology Transfers at the Tuscaloosa VA
Technology Transfer is the commercialization of inventions and discoveries made by researchers at an academic institution or federal laboratory. You can learn more by taking the mandatory VA Technology Transfer Program overview in TMS.
The mission of the VA Technology Transfer Program (VA TTP) is to serve the American public by translating the results of worthy discoveries made by employees of VA into practice. This requires a program that educates inventors concerning their rights and obligations, rigorously evaluates all inventions, obtains patents, and assists in the commercialization of new products.
Who Should Disclose Inventions to the VA TTP?
All VA employees must disclose all technologies they invent, even those created outside their VA work time. This includes all:
- Full-Time VA Employees
- Part-Time VA Employees
- Without Compensation Employee (WOC)
- Inter-personnel Agreement (IPA) Employees
- Dual Appointed Personnel (DAP) Employees
When Should I Disclose Inventions to the VA TTP?
VA employees should disclose all possible inventions and other Intellectual Property to their VA Tech Transfer Specialist before there is any public disclosure. Remember, VA employees are required to disclose all technologies they invent, even those created outside their VA work time. Public disclosure is providing adequate information to allow a peer in the field to replicate the invention. This can occur in printed publications or through oral disclosures (Books, journal articles, emails correspondence, grant proposals, posters, abstracts, conference presentations, seminars, etc.). If you aren’t sure if something constitutes “public disclosure”, contact your VA Technology Transfer Specialist before you share information!
If you need to disclose a technology to a party before it is ready for intellectual property protection (for example a patent), the VA can establish a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) / confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) to ensure VA information is protected before sharing.
How do I Disclose an Invention to the VA TTP?
The first step is to get in touch with your VA Technology Transfer Specialist. There are two forms required during the disclosure process to the VA.
Invention Disclosure Form. This form asks for:
- A description of the technology
- The names and contact information for all inventors (VA or not)
- Information about when the invention was created
- Information about any previous public disclosure of the technology or impending public disclosure
Only one Invention disclosure form is required for each invention. If a VA employee has disclosed the technology to their VA affiliated university, this invention disclosure form may be used in lieu of the VA invention disclosure form.
Invention Certification Form. Each VA employee who contributed to the conception of or reduction to practice of an invention must complete the VA Invention Certification (IC) and provide other facts and information to VA-TTP. The certification form is used by the VA Office of General Council (OGC) to determine if the VA has any legally rights or interest in this technology. The Certification forms should be completed with information relevant to the time in which the invention was conceived of or reduced to practice, not just the time the technology was disclosed.
Once a VA inventor has completed and signed their certification form it should be sent to their sites Technology Transfer specialist who will collect the signature of the inventors immediate VA supervisor (so long as the supervisor is not also an inventor) or the sites ACOS/R.
Please note that both the Invention disclosure and Invention Certification forms will not fully open, be visible or editable until you download them and then select “enable all features” in the yellow ribbon at the top of the document!
What Happens After I Disclose?
After the Invention disclosure form is submitted and all VA inventors have completed an invention certification form, the Technology Transfer Specialist will prepare a summary document that outlines the technology’s importance to the VA, and each inventors contribution as well as how/ if this aligns with their VA work. This document, the Invention Disclosure, and the Invention Certification for all employees will then be submitted to the VA Office of General Counsel (OGC). VA OGC will use the provided information and applicable laws and regulations to see if there is sufficient VA contribution to support the VA retaining rights. VA OGC will issue a Determination of Rights letter to the inventor as well as appropriate VA site leadership.
A DOR letter does not address any ownership rights another organization may have through the inventor. If another institution has a joint ownership interest in the invention, VA-TTP will coordinate with the joint owner for patent filing, prosecution, marketing, licensing, and commercialization.
- VHA Directive 1200.18: Determination of Rights for Inventions and Discoveries
- 38 CFR § 1.651-1.663
- 37 CFR § 501
What is the VA TTP Royalty Policy?
Royalty income to VA is received, monitored, and distributed by VA-TTP following federal law and the ORD VA Royalty Distribution Policy.
- VA may distribute royalties only to VA inventors (and their VA Medical Center (VAMC) who were VA affiliated employees at the time of invention.
- Each VA fiscal year, all Royalty Income received from a VA licensing agreement for an invention with a Government ownership interest shall be distributed as follows in the table below.
- If the VA inventors’ affiliations include multiple VAMCs, the remainder will be split among those VAMCs in proportion to the number of inventors affiliated with each at the time of the invention disclosure.
- Dual-Appointed Personnel will receive distributions from the VA and the University affiliate for jointly-owned inventions, the latter following the university affiliate policies
References: VA ORD Royalty Distribution Policy
- First $2,000 to each inventor
- 50% per inventor thereafter
- Subject to an annual cap of $150,000 per inventor
- Remainder will be distributed to VAMC through their research office
Material Transfer Agreements
A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a legal agreement that governs the transfer of scientific materials between investigators at institutions. MTAs define the rights and obligations of the providers and recipients of the materials covered in the MTA. These can only be used when transferring samples to universities and non-profits. A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) should be used when an investigator wishes to transfer materials to for-profit entities.
MTAs are necessary for a number of reasons:
- Technologies and inventions created at universities and in government labs are usually considered the property of the university or government that supported and sponsored that research. So, investigators cannot give away materials that belong to the university or government without permission.
- MTAs offer certain intellectual property and liability protections for the provider of the materials.
- They ensure confidentiality for unpublished research models to help protect creators.
- Helps document chain of custody of materials to ensure you don’t transfer other universities property without their permission.
- Helps document chain of custody of materials to ensure you don’t transfer other universities property without their permission.
- To ensure we meet legal guidelines when transferring human biospecimens
At the VA, an MTA must be reviewed by a VA attorney (OGC STAR) and/or the local Technology Transfer Specialist and signed by a legally authorized representative of the organization. At the Atlanta VAMC this is Dr. Mike Hart (ACOSR).
Collaborating with Industry: Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)
The CRADA is one of the principal mechanisms used by federal labs to engage in collaborative efforts with non-federal partners to achieve goals of technology transfer. It intended to be a flexible mechanism that can be adapted to a variety of types of collaborative efforts between federal and non-federal organizations and that can be implemented relatively easily within a relatively short time. As a technology transfer mechanism, the CRADA is an extremely useful tool in moving federally funded R&D into the private sector.
CRADAs can be utilized at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research facilities located at VA medical centers throughout the country. CRADAs establish the terms of sponsored collaborative research, generally with non-federal industry partners and are specifically designed to protect the parties' prior inventions while allowing the government and private sector research partner(s) to negotiate management of any new discovery or intellectual property that may result from the collaboration.
CRADAs are governed by Title 15 Commerce and Trade, Chapter 63, Technology Innovation, Section 3710a Cooperative Research and Development Agreements. Related statutes are found in other parts of Title 15 and Title 35 Patents, Chapter 18, Patent Rights in Inventions Made with Federal Assistance.
Confidential Disclosure Agreements (CDAs) and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
Confidential Disclosure Agreements (CDAs) may be used where VA and/or a third party wish to share confidential information in anticipation of a future relationship. For example, a CDA may be used to allow for the sharing of information needed to determine whether a CRADA is feasible. Unmodified CDAs may be approved locally and signed by the Medical Center Director or ACOS/R, where such authority has been delegated.
Gap Funding or Development Funding (BRAVE Funding)
BRAVE funding is available through the Technology Transfer Program (TTP) flows from ORD to make the underlying VA inventions more attractive for licensing to industry. For example, funding could be used for a validation study, animal modelling, proof of concept, to support further development of a device, prototype development, etc.
BRAVE funding typically ranging from a smaller amount (example $10,000) to more significant funding (example $200,000), upon approval by the TTP Director. The outcome of the funded project is anticipated to make the invention more appealing from a commercial perspective or to move forward a product that will help Veteran’s. Historically, FY20 funded 12 projects at total of $1.36M and FY 21 funded 17 projects at a total of $1.8M. Most projects ranged from $10,000 to $100,000, with a few projects exceeding $100,000 but no more than $200,000. This type of funding is often distinct from the specific aims that a typical merit award may cover. Or it could provide an extra aim to an existing study that will assist in bringing the technology closer to commercial or veteran use.
In technology transfer, this is often referred to as “valley of death” funding necessary to develop an invention enough to interest commercial entities to license the technology. Talk to your VA TTP Specialist to learn more about this funding.
Prototyping at the VA
Technology Transfer Assistance Project (TTAP) is an initiative of the Technology Transfer Program that started in 2018. TTAP aims to bring worthy VA discoveries closer to public use by supporting the creation of a working prototype and by consulting on pathways for commercialization. TTAP’s main partners are in Pittsburg, Minneapolis, and Cleveland. Talk to your VA TTP Specialist to learn if your invention qualifies for prototype development.
VA TTP uses a third-party organization, called TechLink. to market VA owned technology with the invention of licensing. TechLink’s primary activities in service to the VA are focused on the marketing of technologies and evaluation of potential licensees. As part of its role in TechLink acts as mediators between the agency and business and helps navigate the licensing process.
Techlink provides passive marketing service by listing all technologies available for licensing at TechLinkcenter.org, with comprehensive information enabling prospective licensees to perform initial due diligence on any given technology. To date, there are over 600 VA technologies available for licensing listed on TechLink’s website.
For those inventions selected for active marketing, TTP and TechLink identify potential licensees, reach out to those prospects through direct marketing approaches, educate interested parties on the technology, and work to move the prospects towards further engagement with the VA through a license or a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). TechLink also utilizes social media to generate interest in VA technologies with regular postings on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Successful patents licensed to manufacturers provide a downstream royalty.
The Atlanta VA Medical Center Technology Transfer Specialist is Brandy Wade, PhD (she, her, hers). Dr. Wade joined the VA in December 2019 as the first local Technology Transfer Specialist (TTS) and is located at the Atlanta VA Medical Center (VAMC). She earned her PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology from Emory University and has over a decade of biomedical research experience with a focus on molecular and immunological pathways leading to human diseases. Her research focused on the role of changes in protein ubiquitination as a disease driver in neurodegeneration and lung disease.
Dr. Wade trained in the Emory University Office of Technology Transfer and the Emory Biotech consulting club where she gained experience in invention evaluation, obtaining intellectual property protection, marketing inventions, and developing FDA 510(k) clearance strategies.