Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Osaka University visits von Liebig Center for 2-week Commercialization Program

On Oct. 26, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center welcomed Osaka University’s second cohort of students to participate in a two week workshop developed by Osaka University, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and Global Connect. Nine Osaka University students arrived from Japan, ready to pitch their ideas for innovative new science and technologies at UC San Diego. For two weeks, these students were immersed in Q&A sessions with guest speakers, customer interviews and classes on customer development, marketing, intellectual property and potential partnerships. At the end of the program, they gained new knowledge to further their projects, build connections to begin their companies and presented their perfected pitches to a panel of venture capital fund managers.

This cohort included eight Masters’ students and one post-doctorate student from Osaka University. Of the nine presentations, three exciting discoveries were selected for the 2-week Commercialization Program – noise simulator, ultraviolet lens and disease algorithm.

One team, led by Masataka Kikuchi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Genome Informatics, had an algorithm to detect diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and cancer, using messenger RNA, instead of DNA. Messenger RNA is more effective than DNA because it recognizes both inherited and lifestyle diseases. He believes it is valuable to learn about the business side of his research, including patents, business models and who is the customer in order to transfer research to address social needs.

Dr. Kikuchi said that he came to San Diego thinking that middle aged people were his customers, but the von Liebig Program taught him that pharmaceutical companies are his actual customers and that was a big revelation. Dr. Kikuchi plans to use what he learned from the program in his consulting work in Japan.

“The product didn’t change, but the business strategy changed dramatically,” Dr. Kikuchi shared.

Professor Masayuki Abe, Director of Engineering, and Associate Professor Yuki Nagano, Office for University-Industry Collaboration, accompanied the students to UC San Diego.

Osaka University has 22,000 students and 5,000 faculty members, but no entrepreneurism programs yet. Professor Abe explained that the university received funding from the Japanese government due to a recommendation from the Minister of Education. Traditionally, many Japanese students go on to work at big name companies after earning their Masters’ degrees, but in recent years, since some of those companies went bankrupt, the students recognized the need for a change. Now, the numbers are increasing; more students to pursue doctoral degrees and more students to take on jobs at small companies.

Professor Abe said, “We used to think that businesses can only be started by sophisticated people like Steve Jobs, but anyone can learn to start a business with practice. If you are trained, you can do anything you want to do.” Professor Abe also said that the von Liebig program is well-considered, especially guest speakers and joint sessions with American students.

“Students especially like the Japanese guest speakers because going to the U.S. is very risky,” Professor Abe said. “The students want to understand what is in the speaker’s background that drew them to the United States.”

Earlier in 2015, the first cohort from Osaka University including students and faculty visited UC San Diego to learn more about the San Diego Innovation Ecosystem. They were eager to collaborate on a program for Japanese students to learn how to commercialize new ideas in science and technology. The program was designed by Dr. Rosibel Ochoa, Executive Director, von Liebig Center and Mr. Nathan Owens, Director, Global Connect, and the course content is delivered by business experts. During the two weeks, students were taught different modules such as marketing, finance and patents. Tarek Fahmi, Principal of Ascenda Law Group, delivered the module on patents, as he has extensive knowledge of patent protection in both US and Japan. Marketing and Financial content was presented by Jonathan Masters, Technology and Business Adviser at the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.

For more information about the Osaka group or other international programs, contact Dr. Lori Deaton, Project Manager, von Liebig Center, ldeaton@ucsd.edu

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