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Mercier wins AAMC innovation award

Office of Technology Management director honored for work supporting female inventors, entrepreneurs

by Julia Evangelou StraitSeptember 13, 2018

Joe Angeles

Nichole R. Mercier, PhD, director of the Office of Technology Management (OTM) at Washington University in St. Louis, has received a first-place Innovations in Research and Research Education Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The award recognizes her efforts to support women in innovation and technology.

Mercier started the Women in Innovation and Technology program (WIT) at Washington University in 2014, with the goal of increasing the number of women working with OTM to disclose and patent their discoveries and commercialize their research through licensing technologies or founding new startup companies.

“Like in many STEM fields, we in OTM also see a gap in the number of men versus women who are engaging with the office,” Mercier said. “We know more men than women patent research findings, for example. Testimonials from WIT participants and data showing more women are participating in technology transfer activities after WIT programming demonstrate the positive impact our program is having.”

The program has provided resources to help women overcome some of the barriers in technology transfer, including helping with commercialization, nurturing an internal network of people who can help women with different resources, and boosting connections with and support for one another. Over its first four years, the program has engaged more than 250 women with educational events, including roundtable discussions, symposia, workshops and community-building activities. Mercier also has attracted experts from outside the university who have committed to supporting WIT programs and mentoring women innovators.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are major priorities of Washington University, and we are enormously proud of Nichole and the important work she has done in making the resources and expertise of OTM more accessible to women,” said Provost Holden Thorp. “This is a highly deserved honor, and we thank the AAMC award committee for recognizing the success of Nichole’s program and look forward to continuing to expand this type of programming so that all faculty have an equitable chance to bring their innovations and discoveries to the marketplace.”

The AAMC award highlights university programs that promote technology transfer, entrepreneurship, and research partnerships with the private sector. The winning projects were chosen by a panel of experts in biomedical research, education and training from AAMC staff and member institutions. The panel judged the projects on creativity, impact and how easily each program could be replicated.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,300 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Julia covers medical news in genomics, cancer, cardiology, developmental biology, otolaryngology, biochemistry & molecular biophysics, and gut microbiome research. In 2022, she won a gold award for excellence in the Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards competition. Given by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the award recognized her coverage of long COVID-19. Before joining Washington University in 2010, she was a freelance writer covering science and medicine. She has a research background with stints in labs focused on bioceramics, human motor control and tissue-engineered heart valves. She is a past Missouri Health Journalism Fellow and a current member of the National Association of Science Writers. She holds a bachelor's degree in engineering science from Iowa State University and a master's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota.