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UAMS BioVentures Director to Researchers: ‘Call Me’

Nancy Gray, Ph.D., has spent her first six months as UAMS BioVentures director focused on getting to know researchers and staff. She’s met with researchers interested in generating intellectual property, those who have generated intellectual property, and some who aren’t sure if they have.

“What I’ve found is that most researchers are so involved in the day-to-day of their programs that, generally, they aren’t thinking about whether they have invented something,” she said. “I believe there’s a lot more intellectual property here that we can capture.”

Gray’s outreach so far as generated an increasing number of researcher phone calls and emails, but she would like to receive more.

“If you have a question, call BioVentures,” she said. “Even if we don’t have an answer, we’ll find an answer. I would like to see BioVentures viewed as a resource as people think about their research work and what it might lead to in terms of commercialization.”

Gray has encountered a few misconceptions here, as well, such as that intellectual property relates only to patents, while in reality it may also involve copyright material and know-how.

BioVentures’ role includes finding licensees for a researcher’s intellectual property if the researcher chooses not to create a spin-off company. Gray has also focused on finding partners for UAMS researchers either through licensing of intellectual property or for sponsored research. While BioVentures does not manage sponsored research agreements, she said, there are opportunities for corporate sponsorships to develop early stage intellectual property through sponsored research or product licenses.

“If a researcher knows a certain company might be interested in their work, I would encourage them to reach out to BioVentures,” she said.

Another misconception Gray noted is that BioVentures offers a source of funding, as implied by its name. Although it doesn’t provide funding, Gray is in a position to help with that too.

“We’re not a venture group, per se, but we have the expertise here,” she said, noting BioVentures staff with business and financial backgrounds and her more than 30 years in biomedical industries, including medicinal chemistry research, management of pharmaceutical research and development, and business operations. Her experience and professional connections allow Gray to direct researchers to the right people.

“Each piece of intellectual property might have a different audience,” she said. “If it’s diagnostic based, the audience of companies would be much different than if it’s a therapeutic or vaccine or device.”

Gray’s experience also includes that of researcher and product developer. She is the inventor on 31 issued U.S. patents and the author of 23 publications. Her research on central nervous system diseases resulted in three products being accepted for clinical development in five years. She was also instrumental in the development of two marketed second generation antihistamines, Allegra and Xyxal.

UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI) Director Laura James, M.D., noted that BioVentures is important to UAMS’ mission to improve its translation of new knowledge and discoveries into better health and health care. Gray participated in TRI’s strategic planning retreat just weeks after she arrived in March and is working with TRI on a program to reach a broader audience of researchers with an introduction to the concepts of intellectual property and the importance of protecting inventions.

Gray came to UAMS from the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, where she was vice president for corporate development. There, she led corporate development opportunities, including mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, joint ventures, minority investments, technology licenses and divestitures for the life sciences, engineering, and environment and energy business. Gray completed one joint venture agreement, 30 license agreements and 37 collaboration agreements.

Prior to her time at the Southern Research Institute, Gray worked in various executive roles at Beijing Med-Pharm Corporation, Vaxinnate Corportation and Elan Corporation.  She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bucknell University and her doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Illinois.

Gray can be reached at nmgray@uams.edu or (501) 686-6696.

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