Medical Device Veteran’s Advice on Industry-Academia Collaboration

How do academic researchers identify industry partners that can help translate their innovations into useful products? What should you expect in a collaboration with industry?

Walter Ryan Cook Medical

Walter Ryan, Director of Business Development at Cook Medical, shares insights into the keys to a successful research and development collaboration between industry and academia. Through a series of three brief videos on UCSF-CTSI’s Launchpad, Ryan provides suggestions and tips to academic researchers on initiating a relationship, setting expectations, maintaining continued interest and commitment and maximizing the likelihood of a mutually beneficial outcome.

Mr. Ryan is a veteran in the field of urology with eight years of hands on surgical experience and over 15 years in the medical device industry. He is also a leading supporter and organizer of several global exchange and education programs designed to bring together physicians in the field of endourology to learn best practices and new techniques that drive improvements in patient care.

In the first video, Ryan discusses ways in which academic researchers can identify appropriate industry partners. A simple first step is to research companies that develop products in the category or disease indications of interest. This can be done through various medical and industry resources on the internet or at medical association meetings where companies often look to engage with potential partners and collaborators. An often overlooked channel to learning more about potential partners is to build a relationship with their sales representatives who can put researchers in touch with the right technical and business contacts within the company.

Walter Ryan Cook Medical 03

In the second video, Ryan details key questions researchers should ask potential industry partners to set expectations and ensure a productive ongoing relationship. These include clarification of the partner’s processes for developing new intellectual property, their regulatory, manufacturing and commercialization capabilities, and their sales, marketing and distribution strategy. Ryan goes further to highlight the importance of discussing the partner’s commitment to a development timeline and a life cycle management strategy for the product.

Walter Ryan Cook Medical 02Finally, in the third video, Ryan outlines some of the questions an industry partner may ask an academic collaborator. During the co-development process, industry partners will require input from researchers to assure that the intended design and specifications are consistent with the product vision. The partner will expect prompt and honest feedback throughout the process and timely contributions to required regulatory and intellectual property documentation. Finally the industry partner will often work with researchers to study and promote the innovation through publications, trade shows and marketing campaigns.

We hope that the information and insights provided in these videos are helpful. Cook Medical further supports UCSF CTSI through the participation of Mr. Bruce Gingles, Cook Medical’s Vice President of Global Technology Assessment and Healthcare Policy, as an advisor in the Catalyst Awards program.  UCSF researchers are encouraged to apply to the Catalyst Awards program for seed funding and expert industry input from advisors such as Mr. Gingles and others. Read about the 2014 Spring winners here and view a brief infographic to learn more.

Please let us know what you think and feel free to contact us at UCSF CTSI Early Translational Research with any questions.

About Cook Medical:

Founded in 1963, Cook Medical pioneered many of the medical devices now commonly used to perform minimally invasive medical procedures throughout the body. Today, the company integrates medical devices, drugs and biological grafts to enhance patient safety and improve clinical outcomes. Since its inception, Cook has operated as a family-held private corporation. For more information, visit

About the UCSF CTSI and the Catalyst Awards Program:

As a primary focus of UCSF CTSI’s efforts to support early translational research, the Catalyst Awards program is designed to help translate early-stage research ideas—therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health—into marketable products. To achieve this goal, the program combines customized feedback from expert advisors, with funding to help drive promising early-stage research through the lengthy and complex process of translating ideas into patient benefit. Previous awardees include UCSF investigators whose works span a broad range of innovative concepts in therapeutics, diagnostics and devices.