Relationship building is key for Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation tech transfer leader

Nurturing early stage companies to success requires a variety of tools, as Manu Nair of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation knows.
By Jim Stafford, For The Oklahoman Modified: July 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: July 6, 2014
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It was Wednesday at the recent Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in San Diego, and Manu Nair engaged a visitor to the Oklahoma exhibition space in animated conversation.

Nair was networking and building relationships. It’s a skill that served him well as Senior Licensing Manager for the Mayo Clinic Ventures in Minnesota for more than five years.

And it’s one that he put to work at the BIO show on behalf of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation as its recently appointed vice president for technology ventures.

Nair, 40, came to OMRF a little more than a month ago to take over leadership of the organization’s technology transfer efforts. He succeeded Larry Kennedy, who retired from the role in February after 16 years.

Technology transfer involves identifying technologies that have commercial potential and devising strategies to license them to established companies or build startups around them.

OMRF scientists are involved in groundbreaking research in the areas of cancer, children’s diseases, diabetes, heart disease and Lupus.

An attorney who also earned an MBA, Nair worked for OMRF and Kennedy for five years before taking the position with Mayo Clinic Ventures.

“What I learned from Mayo Clinic is that technology commercialization is a business,” Nair said. “You have to identify the opportunities, nourish them to make them attractive to a potential buyer and strike the right deal. You use your tools and your relationships to get there.”

At Mayo, the tools at Nair’s disposal, subject to institutional policies, included a $2 million seed fund and a $100 million venture capital fund.

In Oklahoma, the technology development tools are similar, if not quite on the scale of those at the Mayo Clinic.

For Nair, the tools will include a seed fund developed by OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott.

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