Princeton University endorses guidelines aimed at rapid transfer of COVID-19 solutions to public

Written by
Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research
April 16, 2020

Princeton this week endorsed new guidelines aimed at accelerating the transition of the University's COVID-19 discoveries into solutions to protect health care workers and prevent, diagnose, treat and contain the pandemic.

The newly adopted principles aim to reduce barriers to developing COVID-19 research and innovations into products and services for the global health response. Princeton is one of the first signatories to the new guidelines, which were developed by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) and are being adopted by universities across the country.

Under the guidelines, most Princeton COVID-19-related innovations will be made accessible during the pandemic without charge to companies or other entities in exchange for their commitment to make and broadly distribute any resulting products and services for the benefit of the public.

"We are trying to make the process as efficient as we can so that Princeton’s technologies can be implemented for the public benefit without delay," said John Ritter, director of technology licensing and a member of the AUTM board of directors. "The endorsement of these guidelines is consistent with the overall values of Princeton University, which are embodied in our informal motto, 'In the nation's service and the service of humanity.'"

Federal law stipulates that universities own the intellectual property rights to faculty-led, federally funded discoveries and inventions. Princeton's Office of Technology Licensing oversees the patenting of University technologies and looks for appropriate opportunities to license the discoveries for further development either at an established company or a startup.

The new guidelines encourage universities to make COVID-19 technology transfer transactions a top priority.

"Princeton University researchers have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a tremendous array of potential solutions to the challenges that this virus presents, from research on vaccines and immunity to developing new health care technologies," said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering. "Our goal is to accelerate the transition of COVID-19-related discoveries and inventions into the hands of those who can rapidly deploy these solutions where they are most needed."

Vice Dean for Innovation Rodney Priestley said the guidelines could incentivize new efforts against the virus. "This new policy framework promises to facilitate rapid access to Princeton discoveries that have the potential to save lives," said Priestley, a professor of chemical and biological engineering. "Princeton's adoption of these guidelines is a strong message to the Princeton innovation community in support of their research activities to fight the COVID-19 pandemic."