HOW DO SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES become products that benefit the world? Ask Kristin Rencher '96, MBA '04. Her work at Oregon Health & Science University helps make this happen.
"OHSU scientists have created lots of solutions and research discoveries in search of a problem," says Rencher, associate director of the university's Office of Technology and Research Collaborations. "The challenge is to figure out which ones will translate into real solutions that benefit mankind."
One such discovery has transformed the treatment for a particular type of stomach cancer. OHSU's Brian Druker M.D. has found a way to "personalize" drugs for each patient so that they attack just the cancer cells, leaving healthy cells alone.
Another discovery has resulted in collaboration between Intel and OHSU that may free millions from the constraints of diseases like Alzheimer's. The institutions are using new technology to wire the homes and even the clothing of Alzheimer's patients. Caregivers will know where a patient is, if that patient has fallen, and even if medication was taken. This will enable people to live independently for as long as possible.
It is Rencher's job to determine if projects such as these are patentable and analyze potential markets. If a discovery looks promising, she puts together a compelling case to convince a company to license the technology and develop it into a product.
The 44-year-old mother of three got what she calls her dream job by working as an intern at OHSU through Portland State's MBA program. Rencher's advanced degree and her background in science and business enabled her to quickly rise to her position as associate director.
"I had no idea a job like this existed until I was in the MBA program," she says. "The program presented me with this opportunity and it turned out to be the perfect intersection of science and business for me. I've found my career nirvana."
By Bobbie Hallelbring