Duke Trustees Examine Durham’s Technology and Research Scene

During next year, board will look at issues surrounding tech transfer, commercialization of research

As part of a year-long look at technology transfer and the commercialization of research, the Duke University Board of Trustees spent a significant part of its meeting this weekend examining innovation efforts now underway in Durham.

The trustees were briefed on the community’s economic development and entrepreneurial landscape in a series of panel discussions covering a wide range of topics.

The first panel focused on Durham’s economic development strategy and infrastructure, and the opportunity for continued collaboration with Duke. Participating in the discussion were Johnson Akinleye, chancellor of North Carolina Central University; Thomas Bonfield, Durham City Manager; Wendell Davis, Durham County Manager; Geoff Durham, president and CEO of the Durham Chamber of Commerce; Wendy Jacobs, chair of the Durham Board of County Commissioners, and Nicole Thompson, president and CEO Downtown Durham, Inc. Moderating the discussion was Stelfanie Williams, Duke’s vice president for Durham affairs.

The discussion took place in the Chesterfield building, a former cigarette factory at the corner of Main and North Duke streets in downtown Durham that was recently redeveloped into a biomedical research hub that now provides Duke and private companies with workspaces ideal for innovation and partnerships. Duke leases about 100,000 square feet to use for collaboration-friendly lab, office and conference spaces for parts of Duke University School of Medicine and the Pratt School of Engineering.

A second panel -- comprised of people who have either moved a company to Durham, invested in new companies or been involved in developing facilities for research and development -- focused on the startup ecosystem in Durham and the region. Participants included Ed Barber of Pattern Health; Jessica Brock of Longfellow Real Estate Partners; Matt Kane of Precision Biosciences; Eric Linsley of BioLabs; Christy Shaffer of Hatteras Venture Partners, and Matt Tormollen of Devada. The discussion, moderated by Duke trustee Ned Gilhuly, explored such topics as talent development, venture capital and community branding and marketing

A third discussion examined the activities of peer institutions. Panelists included Thomas Cahill of Newpath Partners; Orin Herskowitz of Columbia University; Jonathan Stamler of Harrington Discovery Institute, and Christy Wyskiel of Johns Hopkins University. Trustee Katy Hollister moderated the discussion.

In other business, the trustees:

  • Received an update on current national issues in intercollegiate athletics from Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White and other senior officials.
  • Received updates on the implementation of recommendations from the four Strategic Task Forces that were commissioned in 2018.
  • Approved a resolution of tribute to the Lord Foundation of North Carolina and the Jura Corporation. The recent sale of LORD Corporation, a privately-owned global manufacturing company based in Cary, N.C., triggered the distribution of approximately more than $1 billion to four foundations, including the Lord Foundation of North Carolina, which supports Duke.

The proceeds were divided equally among the four institutions and much of the $261 million Duke share will support the work of the Pratt School of Engineering and undergraduate financial aid.