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Israeli Students Collaborate with Johns Hopkins Students in Tech Transfer Class

israeli students stand at the front of classroom

The trip was more than six months in the making yet over in just a few days. Seven Israeli students visited Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County Campus for a week to study with their U.S.-based counterparts in their Technology Transfer and Commercialization course.

The course was a collaborative effort between Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Biotechnology Education and the College of Management Academic Studies’ School of Business Administration. Referred to as COMAS, the university is in Rishon LeZion, Israel, and is that nation’s largest college. Twelve students enrolled in the Tech Transfer class: five Johns Hopkins students based in the Montgomery County area and seven from COMAS. Two weeks of the course were online; one week was on campus.

Lynn Johnson Langer, director, Enterprise & Regulatory Science Programs at Johns Hopkins, said she was contacted by Yaron Danieli, the head of COMAS’ MBA in Biomedical Management program, because he was looking for an international opportunity for his students.

Would Johns Hopkins be interested?

Photo of Lynn Langer“I so strongly believe the world really is flat and we all need to work together,” Johnson Langer said. “When Yaron brought this up, I was completely excited by it.”

They developed the course, had the students apply to Johns Hopkins to be admitted as “special students,” created a memorandum of understanding and made sure the students had visas and plane tickets. They lined up instructors Jill Sorensen and Reid Adler to teach the class.

Then, on the first day they were to meet for the course at the Montgomery County Campus, approximately 10 inches of snow fell in Rockville, shutting the university for the day. After the Israeli students enjoyed the novelty of the snow, they attended class in a conference room at their hotel.

The following three days, the students attended class on campus.

The Tech Transfer course is part of the Master’s in Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship program. The course is an introduction to the multidisciplinary aspects involved in bringing technical developments into commercial use.  The course focused on policies and trends shaping the technology transfer field, with an emphasis on the life sciences sector.

“What I hope they learn – all of the students – is an understanding of how technology is going to be created and commercialized in the biotechnology and life sciences space,” Johnson Langer said. “Our goal in this program is to advance the commercialization of products, to get research to patients.”

The course is not new to Johns Hopkins. During some semesters, it had been taught exclusively online. In other semesters, it had been taught exclusively in the classroom. This spring, however, was the first time the class was offered in a hybrid format, part online and part in person. Research shows, Johnson Langer said, that adult students learn best in a hybrid format.

Sorensen, chief executive of Business Innovation Lab and Action Network, has taught social entrepreneurship, innovation, business ethics and technology transfer courses at Johns Hopkins. Adler is a life sciences sector attorney and has taught biotechnology and technology transfer classes at Johns Hopkins.

Students in the class said they benefited from Sorensen and Adler’s practical experiences.

“I’m going to be an entrepreneur someday,” said student Ayellet Baron, a global marketing and customer support manager for Israeli Biotechnology Research. “Someday, I will have enough courage to get out and try it. I hope to take the knowledge (from this class) to help me kick start.”

Nili Schutz, a drug design and discovery consultant in Israel, completed her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California and said she was glad to be back in the country.

“It’s always good to study in the States,” Schutz said. “When it’s intense and condensed, and that’s all you think, talk, do, it really penetrates.”

Israeli students said they enjoyed working together on class projects with their U.S.-based peers. Several also said they were intrigued that their U.S.-based classmates seemed ho-hum about their proximity to the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

To the Israeli students, Baron said, those agencies are “something like a legend, a palace.”

The Center for Biotechnology Education arranged a tour for the students of the NIH campus in Bethesda.

Student Joe Carver, of Bethesda, said he was thrilled to learn just a few weeks ago of the international flair his tech transfer class would have.

“They bring a lot of energy and different sorts of experiences,” Carver said. “Lots of them are working at international companies. They give different perspectives.”