Keith Davis brings wealth of experience to new IU Bloomington biotech post

Center's first director will lead all intellectual property efforts at College of Arts and Sciences

  • Dec. 10, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington’s Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology has named Keith R. Davis as its first director, a position designed to assist faculty at IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences in the commercialization of research discoveries.

Davis comes to IU from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, where he was a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and at the school’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center. IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences Dean Larry Singell said it was Davis’ broad experience as a molecular and cellular biologist, former plant biotechnology center director and research director and vice president of a multimillion dollar biotech company that made him a perfect fit for the position.

“Keith Davis values the culture of translational research and understands how to implement the processes necessary to enhance interactions with industry partners and, in turn, the establishment of new companies,” Singell said. “In this new position, Keith will ensure faculty are able to focus on their core strengths in basic research while collaborating with them to identify new opportunities for intellectual property development and commercialization.”

Davis holds a Ph.D. in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from the University of Colorado Boulder and is the former director of the Plant Biotechnology Center at Ohio State University. From 1999 through 2006, he had affiliations including director of plant research, vice president of agricultural biotechnology and executive consultant for Icoria Inc. and its earlier incorporation, Paradigm Genetics. In 2005, Icoria sold its agricultural division to Monsanto for $6.75 million and its remaining operations to Clinical Data for about $12.75 million.

Davis will receive support in his new role from Bill Brizzard, director of technology commercialization for the IU Research and Technology Corp.; Johanna E. Salazar, assistant director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology; and Zhixin Chen, Johnson Center discovery scientist. Davis said the initial role of the Johnson Center staff will be to assist faculty with identifying new intellectual property opportunities and with developing and streamlining research collaborations with industry.

“Faculty need to focus on their core research objectives while we can offer skill sets to liaise with industry, including identifying potential industry partners, developing research plans and finalizing contractual arrangements,” he said. “We will also offer assistance with meeting reporting requirements, analyzing conflict of interest issues, developing strategies to make IU core facilities available for supporting local technology corporations and with identifying opportunities for faculty to participate in translational research programs at other Indiana institutions like the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute at IUPUI.”

Davis believes there is substantial untapped potential in the many great research discoveries being made by IU Bloomington faculty, and he is looking forward to finding ways to use this new knowledge to solve real-world problems. He is also looking forward to collaborating with former IU graduates who have become successful entrepreneurs and now have an interest in seeing IU become more engaged in translational research.

Funding for the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology in the amount of $3.65 million over the next five years comes from the College of Arts and Sciences and the IU Bloomington Office of the Vice Provost for Research, with some additional grant funding.

“Keith is an example for faculty of how to use tech transfer funding to support basic research," said Michael J. Wade, interim vice provost for research at IU Bloomington.

The center and the vice provost’s office, along with the Kelley School of Business and the Maurer School of Law Center for Intellectual Property Research, are hosting a technology commercialization seminar series with five events planned from January through April that cover topics on how to start a new company; patents and copyrights; understanding research contracts; and question-and-answer sessions with faculty entrepreneurs.

Offices for the center are in the Simon Hall Multidisciplinary Science Building at 212 S. Hawthorne Drive on the Bloomington campus.

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