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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

Kelly Sexton to Head U-M Innovation Partnerships


Kelly Sexton, an assistant vice chancellor at North Carolina State University, has been named associate vice president for research — technology transfer and innovation partnerships at the University of Michigan.

Her appointment was approved Thursday by the Board of Regents and is effective Jan. 16, 2018. Sexton will provide leadership for U-M’s innovation and technology transfer activities along with building partnerships with public and private entities that are essential to the U-M innovation ecosystem.

“Building stronger processes and partnerships to ensure that the results of U-M research can be applied to the benefit of society is a critical part of our mission as a public research university,” said S. Jack Hu, vice president for research, whose office oversees U-M Innovation Partnerships.

“Kelly Sexton’s expertise and experience in all facets of this endeavor will help us strengthen U-M’s reputation for creativity and innovation while broadening our impact on society,” Hu said.

Sexton, who leads the office of technology commercialization and new ventures at North Carolina State University, praised the capacity of U-M’s research enterprise and its well-developed innovation ecosystem that supports faculty, students and staff in all areas of the university.

“What excites me about this position is the opportunity for the university to strengthen the investment and entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state,” she said. “The university is poised to be such an economic driver for the state. I want to be a part of that.”

Innovation Partnerships is responsible for the commercialization of university research discoveries. For fiscal year 2017, the office received 444 new inventions, created 173 option and license agreements and helped launch 12 startups.

Sexton realized that research commercialization was her passion while working as a postdoctoral fellow doing breast cancer research at Stanford University. After completing her fellowship, she interned at the Stanford Office of Technology Licensing before joining North Carolina State University.

She earned a Ph.D. in molecular pathology from the University of California, San Diego and a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and biochemistry from the University of Georgia, Athens.

At North Carolina State University, she led the effort to create an alumni angel investor network to create a new source of funding for university startups and spinouts. She also managed a proof-of-concept fund focused on strengthening the commercial potential of university technologies, increased the number of licenses and options, strengthened relations between the university and the local entrepreneurial community and increased the number of startups launched each year.

“The University of Michigan has a bright history of transforming research discoveries into new products and companies that improve lives and drive economic growth,” Sexton said. “It is clear to me that the university leadership is committed to preeminence in technology transfer, and I am honored to have been selected to lead these efforts.”

[The above story, written by Greta Guest for the University Record, was published on December 7, 2017.]