Meet the Invention Transfer Group - Life Sciences

Meet the Invention Transfer Group - Life Sciences
Ronnie Ronnie Hanecak, Ph.D., Assistant Vice Chancellor, Technology Alliances

Ronnie Ronnie Hanecak, Ph.D.,
Assistant Vice Chancellor, Technology Alliances

Casie Kelly, Ph.D,  Senior Licensing Officer

Casie Kelly, Ph.D, 
Senior Licensing Officer

Maria Tkachuk, Ph.D., Licensing Officer

Maria Tkachuk, Ph.D.,
Licensing Officer

Ronnie Hanecak, Ph.D.,
Assistant Vice Chancellor, Technology Alliances

1.  What is your educational and professional background? How did you come to work for the Invention Transfer Group?

I graduated from UC San Diego with a BA in Biology before receiving my Ph.D. in Microbiology from the State University of New York where I studied RNA viruses called picornaviruses (examples include those viruses that cause the common cold and poliovirus). Prior to working for more than a decade in the biotechnology industry, I carried out cancer research here at UC Irvine with Professor Hung Fan, first as a Leukemia Society Postdoctoral Fellow and later as Co-Principal Investigator and Project Manager of a government funded consortia grant on carcinogenesis. I subsequently joined Ionis Pharmaceuticals (previously Isis Pharmaceuticals) where I focused on the discovery of drug candidates for infectious diseases. I also managed and expanded multimillion dollar research and development projects between Ionis and Japanese pharmaceutical companies. I joined UCI following the acquisition of a biotechnology startup I was working for in San Diego. Thanks to a contact at UCI that I had befriended while a post-doctoral researcher (we ran together in 5K races held in Orange County), I was made aware of an available licensing officer position, applied for the job, and became an Anteater.

2.  What is your specific role in ITG?

I have the good fortune to oversee a group of 11 highly-educated, experienced, and extraordinarily competent professionals working within ITG. My role is to continue navigating the office toward greater success in licensing and startups, including engaging UCI’s researchers and the local business community in translating UCI’s brilliant discoveries into products that benefit society. Specifically this includes supporting the licensing activities of the staff, the final review and execution of diverse technology license agreements along with other campus engagements that encompass a variety of interactions between UCI and industry. I can connect well with faculty because I have experience both in academic research and in industry having worked for two startups. In addition, I manage UCI inventions and represent the ITG to internal (UC system-wide and UCI) and external groups.

3.   What has been your favorite memory of working with ITG or UCI Applied Innovation so far?

Most of my focus has necessarily been on the ITG operation, but I have had opportunities to discuss business planning and technology development with several of the student entrepreneurs working here at UCI Applied Innovation. The students are bright and I find their enthusiasm motivating. The teams participating in the most recent business plan competition were amazing. The daily flow of interesting professionals and entrepreneurs through UCI Applied Innovation is another huge advantage to being located here.

4.   What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to student innovators?

Take full advantage of all of the incredible resources and expertise available at UCI Applied Innovation….there are mentors and advisors that have walked in these shoes before you.

5.  What is an interesting fact about yourself that not many people know about?

Many years ago, I thought that I wanted to pursue taxidermy as a career. So, when I was fifteen years old, I worked in a taxidermy office for one summer in the Philippine Islands. One time during that summer my parents received multiple calls that I was riding around on my motorcycle with a live crow on my shoulder. It was NOT alive, but I appreciated their compliments on my work. Based on that summer’s taxidermy experience, I decided that I greatly preferred interacting with the various reptiles (mainly huge pythons), birds and other organisms when they are alive rather than as preserved and stuffed specimens.

 

Casie Kelly, Ph.D.,
Senior Licensing Officer

1.       What is your educational and professional background? How did you come to work for the Invention Transfer Group?

I was a dual major at UCLA, earning bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry and in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics. From there I went to Harvard to complete a PhD in Microbiology. While at Harvard, part of my PhD thesis was to develop a panel of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of Staphylococcus infections. During this process I was exposed to the patenting and licensing activities at Harvard and worked with the tech transfer office and patent attorneys as an inventor. This peaked my interest in the technology transfer field and after graduation, I took a position at UCLA’s technology transfer office where I was mentored by the licensing officer responsible for UCLA’s blockbuster Xandi deal. I also became a patent agent while employed at UCLA. After six years in UCLA’s tech transfer office, I was offered a Senior Licensing Officer position at UCI, which afforded me the opportunity for additional responsibilities and to return to my hometown in Orange County.

2.       What is your specific role in ITG?

I am the Assistant Director of Life Sciences and I manage our patent prosecution group, our internship program, and one ITG licensing officer. In addition to those responsibilities, I manage a portfolio of life science inventions where I work with faculty, staff and students to identify aspects of their research with commercial potential. I evaluate new inventions, manage the patent prosecution process, and license the university’s patent rights to both established companies and startups.

3.       What has been your favorite memory of working with ITG or UCI Applied Innovation so far?

It has been nearly four years since I joined the office here at UCI and I’ve seen such an amazing transformation take place with the development of the Cove. It allows our office to have more visibility on campus and provide programs and resources that we’ve never been able to provide before. There are not a lot of universities that could have successfully created a place like the Cove and it demonstrates UCI’s desire to engage with the community and create support for entrepreneurial activity in Orange County.

4.       What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to student innovators?

Embrace failure and don’t be too hard on yourself when it happens, because it will happen.

5.       What is an interesting fact about yourself that not many people know about?

During my younger years, I spent a lot of time competing at the national level as a majorette (a.k.a. Baton twirling). I think the experience helps me to juggle all my responsibilities here at ITG!

 

Maria Tkachuk, Ph.D.,
Licensing Officer

1. What is your educational and professional background? How did you come to work for the Invention Transfer Group? 

I earned my Ph.D. in Biology from Basel University in Switzerland. Later, I began work as a PostDoc at Stanford University with a focus on stem cell research. I then took a position as Technology Specialist at Wilson Sonsini Law Firm in Silicon Valley. As my work moved out of the laboratory and towards the business of science, I became a registered Patent Agent. For the last ten years, I have been working for the Invention Transfer Group at UC Irvine.

2. What is your specific role in ITG?

I am a Licensing Officer focused on Life Sciences for ITG.

3. What has been your favorite memory of working with ITG or UCI Applied Innovation so far?

Currently, I am witnessing the spectacular expansion of a small team of licensing professionals into a broad network that facilitates technological innovation in Orange County. While at ITG, I have enjoyed working alongside bright and forward-thinking scientists. I have witnessed firsthand how an idea germinates and grows into a viable company, and then how that company evolves and develops products that eventually come to the market. It is a powerful feeling to have a real product in your hands, to see how it helps and impacts real people, and know that you played a part in this process from its beginning when you received the Record of Invention, the very first document that described the idea.

4. What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to student innovators?

The best advice that I can give to student innovators is to remain focused on your new ideas and technologies. It is important to collaborate and build a strong team around your inventions and innovations.

5. What is an interesting fact about yourself that not many people know about?

I love skiing. I love the speed and adrenaline of it.