Where academic research and commercial enterprise converge, this new breed of college official serves as science's gatekeeper
When Katharine Ku took on the directorship of the Office of Technology Licensing at Stanford University earlier this fall, she inherited quite a legacy from her predecessor, Neils Rimers.

Her professional endowment included royalties totaling $25.6 million last year; a portfolio of patents and licenses that includes one of the most lucrative and commercially successful university patents to date; a faculty that is, as she puts it, "in the middle of Silicon Valley and immersed in the whole entrepreneurial culture"; and a staff of 20 to handle their inventions.

There are as many different paths to a position in technology transfer as there are facets to the job. A chemical engineer by training, Katharine Ku started her career as a patent engineer at Stanford University, helping investigators write descriptions of their inventions. After...

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