Erik Halvorsen started in his new role as senior director of technology transfer and industry collaboration in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research on Aug. 4. Halvorsen comes to Tufts after serving as the executive director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Technology and Innovation Development Office.
Halvorsen said that he will oversee the translation of innovation and research into technology, with the goal of increasing the potential of the Office of Technology Licensing and Industry Collaboration, also known as Tufts Tech Transfer, to develop products with an impact.
“The function of Tech Transfer is really to take funded research … to take recent discoveries, innovations, inventions if you will, and trying to figure out how to turn those into products that can benefit the public,” he said.
Those products can include drugs, instructional materials for clinical professionals and medical software, among other inventions developed out of research at Tufts, according to Halvorsen. A large component of his job involves determining the best method to get a product on the market.
“The path we take is not a one size fits all… [a] big part of my job is figuring out the best pathway for a given technology or a given discovery, who the best partners are to work on it with us,” he said.
Those partners can include other academic organizations, private companies or government organizations or foundations, Halvorsen explained. When determining the pathway for each product, the goal is to give it the highest probability of success.
“[We attempt to] give it the best chance possible to succeed and become a product that can benefit the public,” Halvorsen said.
He added that he was attracted to the commitment of Tufts Tech Transfer to quality research across Tufts’ schools and disciplines as well as its potential for growth.
“There’s so much more that we can be doing in terms of supporting research and innovation and entrepreneurship and translation and commercialization here,” he said.
Vice Provost for Research Diane Souvaine expressed enthusiasm regarding Halvorsen’s appointment.
“We are so very excited to have Erik Halvorsen join us here at Tufts,” Souvaine said. “He brings a combination of vision, expertise and energy that will certainly transform the way we do things here at Tufts.”
Halvorsen has already begun to bring positive change to the Tech Transfer office, according to Licensing Associate Erika Bechtold at Tufts Tech Transfer.
“He has brought with him a great energy and sense of leadership and really rallied the team, and we’re excited to have him on board,” she said.
Souvaine noted that Halvorsen has taken initiative in continuing the partnership between the research office and the administration.
“He is already actively meeting with the deans, with faculty, with other leaders across the university, and in the course of his first three months has laid out a path for what we can be doing in this area in the future,” she added.
Halvorsen’s personal background strongly influences his commitment to work in this field. His daughter was born with heart defects that were detected prenatally through recent advances in medical technology, ultimately saving her life.
“My wife and I welcomed our first child, and my daughter was diagnosed prenatally as having holes in her atria, holes in her ventricles and then a narrowing of her aorta, which essentially put her into heart failure as she was born,” he said. “So … having been diagnosed prenatally — that this was an existing condition — the doctors were already ready when she was born to take care of her.”
Many of the medical professionals who treated his daughter were colleagues using technology that he had helped to license, according to Halvorsen.
“The interesting thing [is that] a lot of the people I worked with at that point — the doctors, clinicians, even some of the nurses … I knew them as researchers and inventors helping to develop products, and now I’m in the situation as the father of a child who’s being treated by the same people, my colleagues, and they’re using the cutting edge technology, some of which was developed there, to save her life,” he said.
Halvorsen is hopeful that his work at Tufts will make an impact on the world.
“I heard the same message over and over again, which is we want to build this capability out so that we can better support research and innovation and entrepreneurship and be connecting things to make an impact,” he said. “And that’s been a focus to me: impact at Tufts and also in the world with our research and innovation, translating that into products that make a difference.”