The Johns Hopkins University has hired the state's former economic development chief, Aris Melissaratos, to oversee the university's flagging commercialization efforts and to recruit major corporate tenants into its budding research parks, officials said yesterday.
Melissaratos, a popular secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development under Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., will start tomorrow in the new position: special adviser to the president for enterprise development.
Hopkins officials said the position was created specifically for Melissaratos after it became clear that the Hopkins graduate would not be asked to join Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration, despite the urging of many in the state's business community.
"This was an opportunity for us," said James McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration. "When we learned that he was potentially interested in doing something like this for and with Hopkins, we said this looks like something we ought to do."
Melissaratos, a former Westinghouse executive and active investor in early-stage biotech companies, will have two primary duties. As head of the university's technology transfer office, he said, he will "improve the rate at which intellectual property gets converted into real products to solve real-world problems."
Melissaratos said he will also focus on luring big-name companies to anchor research parks in Montgomery County and East Baltimore.
"I think for Hopkins we need to look for national or global names as the headline grabbers," Melissaratos said. "We need pharmaceutical research and bioscience companies ... and we'll probably need to create an incubator of startups."
Despite boasting for nearly three decades the largest research budget of any university in the country, Hopkins has long lagged behind major universities in transforming its research into commercial applications. A study released last year by the Milken Institute ranked the school 37th in commercialization.
Melissaratos said he will have to tread carefully when encouraging Hopkins scholars to think like businessmen.
"I will respect and recognize those scientists that are there purely for research and those who are entrepreneurial," he said. "Experience tells you where to push and where not to push, and I really hold to the almost sacred research mission of the institution."