Field Course: Commercializing Science - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Field Course: Commercializing Science

Course Number 2107

Professor of Management Practice Vicki L. Sato
Professor Gary Pisano
Field Course: Commercializing Science: Biomedical and Life Science Focus
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
13 2-hour sessions

This course has evolved over five years to be unique among HBS electives as students are selected from Harvard's schools of business, medicine, science, engineering, law, public health, government, and teaching hospitals. The focus is on inventing breakthroughs, working with other professions such as science, medicine, and law, and moving research from the lab to the market place. A center piece of the course is a multi-disciplinary team project to create the plan for commercializing research from a university or private sector lab. Final presentations of the projects will be attended by Harvard faculty, alums and local venture capitalists. Students will be encouraged to develop the best projects for new venture creation and entry into the HBS business plan contest in April.

Educational Objectives

Commercializing Science has three objectives. First, it gives you the managerial insights to increase the chances that your organization will invent a breakthrough. Second, it gives you an understanding of today's increasingly complex innovative landscape. In the past, firms invented, developed, manufactured, and marketed their products internally. Today, firms are working - and competing - with universities, other firms, and open innovation communities. We will discuss the strategic, operational, and ethical issues that arise on such a landscape. Third, the project will give you hands-on experience - as a member of a multi-disciplinary team - in the development of science-based technologies such as genomics, nanotechnology, information technology, and photonics. While most of the projects originate from Harvard laboratories, students may pursue their own project ideas, as long as the topic fits within the scope of the course.

Course Content and Organization

Module 1 presents an overview of the course and explores how breakthroughs occur. We will learn how to recognize outstanding laboratories that are consistently creative and also rich sources of intellectual property for startups. We will study the classic, first hand account of the discovery of DNA and debate how science and collaboration influence the possibility of inventing a breakthrough.

Module 2 focuses on how to commercialize science. While we discuss a number of cases on university technology transfer and science-based startups, the main learning vehicle in this module is a multi-disciplinary project based on a Harvard research breakthrough. Teams will invent a business model with which to commercialize the breakthrough and present their findings to sponsors and the local science-based entrepreneurial community. A sub-module will assess the intellectual property issues around each project.

Career Focus

The course is aimed at students who will work in or with innovative industries and be complementary to other HBS courses that focus on science-based companies.

Commercializing Science: Biomedical and Life Science Focus

This offering of Commercializing Science is directed toward students interested in the business of biomedical science. It is intended for individuals considering careers in life science venture capital, as entrepeneurs in biotech, pharma, medical devices, healthcare IT, as well as individuals who aspire to run large operating companies oracademic institutions that are innovation- driven.

The class is open to EC students, as well as cross registrants from across the University and occasionally other institutions. Case discussions will address topics like: attributes of innovative enterprises; the strategic importance of intellectual property; negotiations with technology transfer offices; strategic choices for companies in the life science space; the regulatory and payer environment; the increasing role of emerging markets, leadership needs unique to biomedical enterprise.

There will be no final exam but team projects which center around the preparation of commercialization plans for a new technologies or discoveries.

Students are welcome to bring their own ideas to the course, but we will work closely with inventors and entrepreneurs from Harvard and the affiliated teaching hospitals, together with the Office of Technology Development.

Each year, several project teams continue to work together to submit business plans for various business contests, and many have done well.