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Harl Tolbert to lead URVentures

September 7, 2021

The new associate vice president wants to build effective bridges between researchers and commercial partners.

Harl Tolbert formal headshot.

Harl Tolbert (photo provided)

Harl Tolbert will become associate vice president of URVentures at the University of Rochester. Stephen Dewhurst, interim vice president for research at the University and vice dean for research at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, announced the appointment, effective October 8.

Tolbert, who has led technology transfer offices at Pennsylvania State University and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, was previously the associate director of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Office of Technology Transfer, the original name for URVentures.

“Even while leading technology transfer offices at other prominent institutions, Harl maintained very strong, positive relationships with many of the long-term members of our URVentures team,” says Dewhurst. “He’s very smart, highly experienced, listens well, and has superb people skills. We were thrilled to offer him the chance to come home to Rochester.”

Tolbert says his experiences at Penn State and Roswell Park gave him different perspectives, as well as a skill set that he might not have had if he stayed at Rochester for the past eight years. “At Roswell Park, I was able to focus almost exclusively on cancer research,” says Tolbert. “Penn State, as a much larger institution, gave me opportunities in very diverse areas, including medical licensing, biomedical technologies, chemistry, and engineering.”

In his new role, Tolbert will be responsible for translating the innovations of researchers into products and devices that benefit society. That could involve the development of new vaccines, medical devices, or communication services. In order to carry out its mission, URVentures helps researchers patent their work, license it to commercial partners, and create startup companies, when appropriate.

“I want us to be true partners with our research community,” says Tolbert. “And that means both the River Campus and the University of Rochester Medical Center.”

Tolbert sees a special opportunity in the field of pharmaceuticals. The University is part of the Empire Discovery Institute (EDI), a drug discovery accelerator that also includes the University of Buffalo and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Tolbert says, “EDI will be a tremendous resource for Western New York and beyond as it develops new therapeutics.”

Tolbert earned his MBA in marketing and master of science in animal sciences from the University of Illinois. He also has a bachelor of science in animal sciences from Southern University.

URVentures protects, develops, and commercializes the intellectual property arising from research at the University of Rochester. The office dates back to 2001, when it was called the Office of Technology Transfer. It was rebranded as URVentures in 2013.

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