A Day in the Life of a VIB Tech Transfer Expert

Curious to know what being a VIB tech transfer professional entails? We talked to Laura Lapienyte, the business development manager for VIB’s neuroscience centers from Lithuania. She has a PhD in pancreatic cancer and recently was awarded the AUTM Volunteer Service Award. Find out more about her exciting career, the challenges and fulfilling aspects of her job, and her advice for scientists who want to pursue a career in this field. Plus, what she would do if given a sabbatical year. Let’s dive in!

Want to know what else makes Laura tick? Read our first interview with her!

Hi Laura! Congratulations on receiving the AUTM Volunteer Service Award! What does it involve?

Thank you, it was a big surprise! AUTM is an association of tech transfer professionals who work in universities, research centers, hospitals, businesses, and government organizations around the globe. Over 300 volunteers contribute their efforts to AUTM, managing various organizational tasks. The past year, I had an opportunity to serve on AUTM’s Online Professional Development Committee. Together with other committee members, we organize webinars for the members of AUTM on tech transfer-related topics such as IP, licensing, and spin-offs. It was a genuine honor for the entire committee to receive the award during the AUTM Annual Meeting in San Diego!

Laura at the AUTM meeting in San Diego
Laura at the AUTM meeting in San Diego

How did you end up joining AUTM?

I was introduced to AUTM through the LifeArc AUTM Fellowship, which I was awarded in 2022. It’s a very competitive one-year fellowship that provides career training in technology transfer for people transitioning from academia. It involves online learning, attendance of international meetings, and many networking opportunities. I applied just before joining VIB, eager to lay the groundwork for my career in tech transfer, and it has been an incredible experience from which I've learned a great deal.

And now you’ve been at VIB for more than a year. What do you do on a day-to-day basis? ​

I support the transfer of early research discoveries from the lab into meaningful products or services with an impact on society. On a day-to-day basis, I facilitate collaborations between academia and industry by drafting, reviewing, and negotiating agreements. My role involves a lot of stakeholder management, bringing people from the scientific world and industry together to work on common goals.

What is the most challenging aspect?

One of the most challenging aspects is ensuring alignment among all parties. Good communication skills are necessary! Additionally, progress can often be slow, sometimes spanning entire careers or lifetimes before witnessing tangible effects, such as product development or therapeutics reaching the market. This is especially true in fields like neuroscience, where the landscape is still evolving.

And what do you find most fulfilling?

I find it fulfilling to know that even what could seem like the little things we do can have a long-term impact. For instance, some research tools that were developed in the lab have been licensed to industry collaborators, which are now being used to optimize drug candidates. I look forward to working on impactful projects! As I build my career, I am excited to see what opportunities arise as the projects mature.

Laura Lapienyte holding her AUTM Volunteer Service Award
Laura Lapienyte holding her AUTM Volunteer Service Award

Do you have any advice for scientists wanting to start in the field of tech transfer?

I highly recommend this career path as there are many opportunities, and it’s very fulfilling. To start, I would suggest using the tools and resources available. Recently, the VIB Innovation & Business team launched the e-learning course ​ ‘Introduction to Tech Transfer’, which gives you a good starting point. Additionally, the applications for the LifeArc fellowship are currently open. I advocate it for PhD students or Postdocs who would like to make a transition into tech transfer. And finally, be patient!

You lived in Lithuania, the UK, France, and now Belgium. As an expat, what are the biggest challenges you experience living here?

There are a few things that I miss from the other places I lived, such as nature, but I haven’t really experienced any specific challenges in Belgium. Moving frequently has made me more resilient to any challenges that may arise, and everyone I have met here has been very supportive and welcoming. I also enjoy the proximity to major European cities as I love to travel. ​

Which conference, person, or book has had the most impact on your life?

I've been fortunate to receive guidance and mentorship from remarkable individuals, many of whom have been female leaders. I am also grateful for my AUTM mentor, who has been a valuable resource in my career growth. The most memorable book for me was 'The Tattooist of Auschwitz'. It's a powerful testimony of people who have survived the trials of the Holocaust and the intertwining stories of immigrants. I find the resilience of individuals depicted in the story captivating. Romance stories simply don't hold my attention.

I’m curious: what would you do if you were given a sabbatical year?

I would go on a baking adventure! I would travel to the Provence and indulge in creating various delicious desserts and pastries. I think it would be a great way to do something completely different and express myself through baking.

And finally, if you could ask an omniscient higher being one scientific question, what would it be and why?

Actually, I enjoy the beauty of not knowing everything. Science is about embracing the journey of discovery, one step at a time, knowing that each step brings us closer to scientific breakthroughs.

Thank you, Laura!

Read the interview with Laura when she first started at VIB

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Meet Laura Lapienyte
Get to to know the new Business Development Manager at VIB

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Laura Lapienyte

Laura Lapienyte

Business Development Manager, VIB

India Jane Wise

India Jane Wise

Science Communications Expert, VIB




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