QB3 & UCSF Innovation Ventures Seminar: The Nuts & Bolts of Licensing UCSF Technology

The Nuts and Bolts of Licensing UCSF Technology
How UCSF, Third Rock, and Pliant Negotiated a Deal for a Potential Lung Fibrosis Therapy

Listen to the podcast episode produced by UCSF Innovation Ventures

Intellectual property is key to success in commercializing life science. When a startup wants to license university IP, how exactly does the process work? In this panel discussion we'll take a panoramic look at the negotiations by which Pliant Therapeutics, a company built by Third Rock Ventures, licensed a discovery made by UCSF professors. This event is jointly hosted with UCSF Innovation Ventures.


  • Bill DeGrado, PhD, Professor, UCSF School of Pharmacy; Scientific Co-Founder, Pliant

  • Dean Sheppard, MD, Professor, UCSF School of Medicine; Scientific Co-Founder, Pliant

  • Neil Exter, Partner, Third Rock Ventures; Board Member, Pliant

  • Gemma Rooney, PhD, Licensing Officer, Office of Technology Management, UCSF

  • Kaspar Mossman, PhD, Communications & Marketing Director, QB3 (Moderator)

Coffee and networking to follow.

Where & When

Byers Auditorium, Genentech Hall, UCSF Mission Bay (600 16th St., San Francisco)
10:30 to 11:30 AM, Thursday, May 23

About the Speakers

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Bill DeGrado, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF, where he is also a member of the Cardiovascular Research Institute. Dr. DeGrado’s work focuses on the design of small molecule drugs, peptides, proteins and peptide mimetics. Before joining UCSF in 2011, he was a member of DuPont Central Research and DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company and the George W. Raiziss Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. DeGrado is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also a past President of the Protein Society and was the scientific founder of PolyMedix, which discovered brilacidin. Brilacidin, currently licensed to Cellceutix, is now in Phase 3 clinical trials for drug-resistant Staphylococcal aureus infections. Some of Dr. DeGrado’s research interests include de novo design of proteins and peptides; peptide mimetics; structure/function of membrane proteins, including integrins and viral ion channels; small molecule drug design; and bioinorganic chemistry.

Dr. DeGrado graduated from Kalamazoo College and holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago. He joined DuPont Central Research without an intervening postdoctoral position.

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Dean Sheppard, M.D., holds a variety of positions at UCSF, including Chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Allergy and Sleep Medicine, Professor of Medicine and a member of the cell biology, biomedical sciences, immunology and pharmaceutical sciences, and pharmacogenomics graduate programs. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying pulmonary (and other organ) fibrosis, asthma and acute lung injury. One aim of his research is to identify new therapeutic targets to ultimately improve the treatment of each of these common diseases. The work begins with basic investigation of how cells use members of the integrin family to detect, modify and respond to spatially restricted extracellular clues and how these responses contribute to the development of common lung diseases. Utilizing mice with global or conditional knockouts of four integrins, the epithelial-restricted integrin, avß6, and the widely expressed integrins a9ß1, avß1, avß5 and avß8, Dr. Sheppard’s lab has identified important roles for these integrins in models of each common lung disease and key steps upstream and downstream of the integrins that provide potential therapeutic targets.

Dr. Sheppard holds an A.B. in social studies from Harvard College and an M.D. from SUNY at Stony Brook. He trained in internal medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle and in pulmonary medicine at UCSF. He has been on the faculty of UCSF since 1980, and was appointed the Founding Director of the Lung Biology Research Center in 1986.

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Neil Exter brings to the company more than 20 years of business development, leadership and strategic experience facilitating the successful development and implementation of operations and collaborations across the spectrum of newly emerging and established biotechnology companies. As a Partner of Third Rock Ventures since 2007, Mr. Exter plays an integral role in the formation, development and business strategy for Third Rock’s portfolio companies and has served in key leadership roles in several portfolio companies, including REVOLUTION Medicines, Cibiem, CytomX Therapeutics, Element Science, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, bluebird bio, Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Foundation Medicine, Lotus Tissue Repair (sold to Shire) and Seventh Sense Biosystems.

Prior to joining Third Rock, Mr. Exter was Chief Business Officer of Alantos Pharmaceuticals, leading the sale of the company to Amgen, and earlier, served as Vice President for Millennium Pharmaceuticals, directing in-licensing and M&A. Earlier in his career, he held various executive and senior management roles within the high technology industry, including tenures at Hewlett Packard and Wang Laboratories. He is a member of the Research Committee of Children’s Hospital Boston, a member of the Investment Committee of the Innovation Research Fund and Innovation Advisory Board at Partners Healthcare and the treasure and a member of the Board of Directors of the New England Venture Capital Association. In addition, Mr. Exter serves as a member of the Advisory Council of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Cornell University and the board of visitors of Columbia College.

Mr. Exter holds an MBA as a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School, an M.S. from Stanford University and a B.S. from Cornell University.

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As a Licensing Officer, Gemma Rooney has over 5 years of experience in licensing and business development. Gemma is responsible for evaluating and managing new technologies, determining the commercial and patenting strategy, engaging with faculty, building new relationships with industry partners and early stage investors, and negotiating license agreements, as well as the intellectual property terms in sponsored research agreements. Gemma and her colleague, Cathy Smith, manage the licensing internship program, which provides early career scientists a unique opportunity to learn about university technology commercialization and intellectual property management.

Gemma holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Stem Cell Biology from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and a B.Sc. in Neuroscience from University College Cork, Ireland. She received postdoctoral training from the University of California, San Francisco and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Her research focused on neurological applications of stem cell therapies.

Gemma is passionate about guiding UCSF investigators in realizing the fullest commercial potential of their innovations. She loves working at the interface between academia and industry, establishing partnerships that have the potential to benefit patients worldwide.

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Kaspar Mossman engages internal and external stakeholders in QB3’s mission to support research and commercialization in quantitative biosciences. He manages the QB3 website, newsletter, email and event marketing, multimedia, social media, and print publications. Previously, he worked on the media staff at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and held an AAAS mass media fellowship at Scientific American. He earned a PhD in biophysics from UC Berkeley.