Dr. Donna Cookmeyer is the new director of technology transfer at NC State University.
Cookmeyer, who had worked in the NCSU office earlier in her career, took over the job last week. She replaces David Winwood who resigned last October to accept a similar position at Ohio State University.
In an interview with Local Tech Wire, Cookmeyer said she felt as if she were returning home. After all, Cookmeyer was a professor of plant pathology at NCSU before leaving for a stint with the US Army Research Office in Research Triangle Park then returned to NCSU to join the tech transfer office. Just over a year ago, she left NCSU to work in tech transfer at Duke.
“This is a set of circumstances I never imagined,” Cookmeyer said. “This is just a good opportunity — again!”
The NCSU tech transfer office has been hit by tremendous turnover in the past two years. Mark Croswell departed as head of the office in September 2000 to move to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Winwood replaced him only to leave soon after.
Cookmeyer became part of the turnover as well when she headed for Duke, which also had lost key people.
“The Duke office had lost two people, and they wanted to fill the position as quickly as possible,” Cookmeyer recalled. “They called over here (NCSU) to see if any of the associate directors would be interested. I talked to them and decided it would be a good move because they have a very different setup there, especially with the big medical school. In fact, it was a good learning opportunity.”
When Winwood bolted, NCSU contacted her about the possibility of returning.
All that movement back and form among the tech transfer offices at the Triangle’s big three might be confusing to some. But Cookmeyer said the moves would help each school and the tech transfer officers.
“There were a lot of intangible benefits from my going to Duke,” she said. “People have moved among the three universities. That meant we were able to work more easily together. It’s easier for the three offices to collaborate because we all know each other. In every case, the people I have worked with in tech transfer in the Triangle have been wonderful.”
Cookmeyer brings a strong academic and administrative background to the job. She earned her PhD in genetics from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. in chemistry from MIT. She also is co-author of a book, “Women, Science and Technology,” and has contributed to a number of scientific publications. And Cookmeyer said her stint as a funding officer at the Army Research Officer helped develop management skills.
She inherits a highly regarded department. NCSU’s technology transfer program is considered one of the best in the United States. It was ranked fourth in the number of start-up companies in 2000 by the Association of University Technology Managers. And the Southern Growth Policies Board rated NCSU as “best in class” alongside Johns Hopkins and the University of Georgia in a recent survey of 72 universities.
In addition to spinning out companies, NCSU’s tech transfer office also helped create the Centennial Venture Fund and worked with the NC Technological Development Authority to open a business incubator at Centennial Campus.
Cookmeyer said she wants to grow the office and increase the pace of technology transfer from university labs into the private sector. She also said she is committed to ensuring tech transfer is used to benefit North Carolina as a state.
“I don’t think the mission of the office is going to change,” she said. “We’re going to be doing a little bit more growing because the faculty has been producing more (research) and there has been more faculty interaction with the office.
“I’m going to get involved with all three campuses, tapping in to the vet school as well as the main campus and Centennial Campus.”
Cookmeyer also is excited about new genomics center at each of the Triangle universities. “We will start to see the economic fruits of this work five to 10 years out,” she said. “The fact that all the universities are getting involved in this is very exciting.”