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In today's competitive environment for grants and funding, universities are ever more challenged to ensure their faculty scientists' inventions make it to market profitably; sometimes compromising their own ethics and policies.
 


Pulitzer Prize winner Rich Whitt's final work of investigative journalism, Behind the Hedges - Big Money and Power Politics at the University of Georgia, exposes just such an instance. The conflicting imperatives of university technology transfer policies are illustrated in the questionable actions by UGA President Michael F. Adams in Chapter 11 of Hedges, entitled The Kaswan Imbroglio.

This chapter discusses the monetization (buy-down) of royalties due to UGA from pharmaceutical giant Allergan for the dry-eye invention Restasis®. Dr. Kaswan, a UGA professor and faculty researcher, invented this breakthrough drug which was initially developed as a treatment for chronic dry-eye, but has now been found to remedy a great variety of other ocular disorders. While Kaswan was recognized as the Inventor of the Year by her alma mater in 1998, she was kept in the dark about negotiations leading to the monetization sale of her invention immediately after FDA approval. As a result, uninformed university officials naively sold the royalty stream on Restasis for far less than its true value. This resulted in a loss of royalties to the university and its inventor that exceeded $220 million dollars.

Although Whitt spent over two years investigating UGA for material for his book, he didn't uncover any information regarding Dr. Kaswan, Restasis or the royalty buy-down deal. But when he read an Atlanta Business Chronicle article on this worst-case scenario in intellectual property tech transfer, Whitt immediately contacted Dr. Kaswan to request an interview.

 

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