Welcome to the Homepage of Robert Kneller!

"One of Japan's fundamental problems is that
too much of its great human talent is locked up in old organizations doing old things."

(from Bridging Islands and Umemura. The Japanese Pharmaceutical Industry (a Review))

日本語のページへ to my Japanese pages

Robert Kneller, J.D., M.D., M.P.H.
Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST),
University of Tokyo

Business-Related Work on Biomedical Technology and Startup Development:

Co-founder with a Japanese partner of a biomedical accelerator.
Advisor to several Japanese biomedical startups and entrepreneurial scientists. Areas include:
  •     medical needs analysis
  •     strategies for showing proof of concept
  •     strategies for obtaining funding
            (including linking to potential investors)
  •     intellectual property strategy
  •     strategies for obtaining regulatory (FDA/PMDA) approval
  •     strategies for engaging development collaborators
            (in universities, NGOs or private sector)
  •     negotiation of license contracts
Bridge to North American translational research and phase I/II clinical trial centers.

Themes of Academic Work:

  • development of biomedical discoveries
  • startups and entrepreneurship
  • university-industry collaboration and technology transfer
  • intellectual property law
  • regulatory issues related to biomedical startups
  • relationship between education and innovation
  • international comparisons of the preceding, particularly between Japan and America

My research has focused on startups, entrepreneurship, intellectual property, university-industry technology transfer, and the importance of these factors for innovation and the development of biomedical discoveries for public benefit. Recent works include a survey of company perspectives on research collaborations with universities (PLOS ONE, 2014), a study of the origins of all the new drugs approved by the US FDA 1998-2007 which shows the importance of new companies for the discovery of innovative pharmaceuticals (Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 2010) and an analysis of the Japanese and American environments for science-based entrepreneurship and the importance of science-based startups for innovation (Bridging Islands, Oxford 2007). Following a sabbatical in Stanford Medical School (2010-11) to better understand the support systems for science-based entrepreneurship in North America and how Japanese entrepreneurs can link to these systems, the focus of my work has shifted to (1) ways to foster the growth of startups based upon Japanese discoveries, particularly ways to help such startups to grow by developing international ties, and (2) ways to encourage inventions in Japanese universities to meet important health needs (invent for health).

I am board certified in General Preventive Medicine having completed my residency and public health studies in Johns Hopkins University. My MD is from Mayo Medical School (1984). I have a JD from Harvard Law School (1980). I graduated from Swarthmore College in 1975 with a major in physics and minor in economics. From 1988 to 1997 I worked in the US National Institutes of Health, first as a cancer epidemiologist, then in science policy, and finally at the coordinator for clinical cooperative R&D agreements with industry to develop NIH cancer drugs. I have worked in China on epidemiology studies and in clinical medicine and public health.

Bridging Islands

Publisher's information

Amazon.com,       Amazon.co.jp

English, French, Chinese*, Japanese*, Russian
*includes in-country professional work

Links to

  1. CV

  2. Advisory and other professional activities

  3. Newspaper articles and presentations

  4. RCAST Official Website

Major Publications

  1. Robert Kneller, Marcel Mongeon, Jeff Cope, Cathy Garner, Philip Ternouth. 2014. Industry-university collaborations in Canada, Japan, the UK and USA - with emphasis on publication freedom and managing the intellectual property lock-up problem. PLOS ONE 9 (3) (e90302). [link to article]

  2. Kneller, Robert. 2013. Commercializing promising but dormant Japanese industry-university joint discoveries via independent, venture capital funded spin-offs. In Hishida, K (Ed.). Fulfilling the Promise of Technology Transfer: Fostering Innovation for the Benefit of Society. Springer. Pp 23-33.
    [link to chapter (PDF file)]

  3. Kneller, Robert. 2013. Umemura, The Japanese Pharmaceutical Industry: Its Evolution and Current Challenges (Review). Journal of Japanese Studies 39 (no. 1, winter 2013) 235-240.
    [link to review (PDF file)]

  4. Kneller, Robert. 2011. The importance of new companies for innovation, and ways to improve Japan’s environment for science based entrepreneurship. Chapter 3 in Watanabe, Toshiya [ed]. University and Human Resource Development in Innovation Systems. Tokyo: Hakuto-Shobo Publishing Co. 173-200. [The published article is in Japanese, but it was translated from the original English by Shudo, Sachiko.]
    [link to bilingual version (PDF file)]

  5. Kneller, Robert. 2011. Invention Management in Japanese Universities and its Implications for Innovation: Insights from the University of Tokyo. In Wong, PK (ed). Academic Entrepreneurship in Asia: The Role and Impact of Universities in National Innovation Systems. Cheltenham UK: Elgar 69-85.
    [link to near-final chapter (PDF file)]

  6. Kneller, Robert. 2010. Importance of new companies for drug discovery: origins of a decade of new drugs. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 9 (November) 867-882.
    [link to: main text, corrections to final (PDF files)]
    [link to main data table (xlsx file)]
    [links to other supplementary information: methodology notes, notes on particular drugs, broad topic notes,(PDF files)]

    [link to summary in Japanese, courtesy of MSA Partners LLC (PDF file)]

  7. Kneller, Robert. 2010. The changing governance of Japanese public science. In R. Whitley, J. Glaser & L. Engvall (eds), Reconfiguring Knowledge Production: Changing Authority Relations in the Sciences and Their Consequences for Intellectual Innovation, Oxford: Oxford U. Press. pp 110-145.
    (This chapter documents the high degree of concentration of R&D funding in just a few Japanese universities and examines its causes and possible consequences. Included is an analysis of the various types of funding and their allocation mechanisms.)
    [link to near-final chapter (PDF file)]

  8. Kneller, R. & Shudo S. 2008. Large companies’ preemption of university inventions by joint research is strangling Japanese entrepreneurship and contributing to the degradation of university science. Journal of the Intellectual Property Association of Japan 5 (no. 2) 36-50. (Japanese and English).
    [link to bilingual final version (PDF file)]

  9. Kneller, Robert. 2007. Bridging Islands: Venture Companies and the Future of Japanese and American Industry. Oxford University Press.
    (This book compares the environment for R&D-based startups in Japan and America and their importance for early stage innovation.)
    [publisher's summary]       Amazon.com,       Amazon.co.jp
    Links to selected chapters (PDF files):
    Preface and Contents,
    Chapter 1: Two Worlds of Innovation
    Chapter 3: University-Industry Relations
    Chapter 6: Ameoeba Innovation: The Alternative to Startups
    Chapter 7: Innovation Across Time and Space: Advantage New Companies

  10. Kneller, Robert. 2007. Prospective and retrospective evaluation systems in context: insights from Japan. In Whitley, Richard & Glaser, Jochen (eds.), Changing Governance of the Sciences: the Advent of Research Evaluation Systems (Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook). Springer: Dordrecht, Netherlands.
    (This chapter describes peer review of research funding in Japanese universities.)
    [link to: front pages, complete late draft] (PDF files)

  11. Kneller, Robert. 2007. The beginning of university entrepreneurship in Japan: TLOs and bioventures lead the way. Journal of Technology Transfer 32 (no.4, August) 435-456.
    (This article describes the post-2003 Japanese system of university-industry technology transfer and its implications for entrepreneurial startups.)
    [link to article (PDF file)]

  12. Kneller, Robert. 2006. Japan's new technology transfer system and the preemption of university discoveries by sponsored research and co-inventorship. Journal of the Association of University Technology Managers 18 (no. 1, summer 2006) 15-35.
    Republished with permission in Industry and Higher Education 21 (no.3, June 2007)
    [link to article (PDF file)]

  13. Kneller, Robert. 2005. Correspondence: The origins of new drugs (in 2 parts). Nature Biotechnology 23 (5&6) (May & June 2005)
    [link to articles: May, June] (PDF files)

  14. Kneller, Robert. 2003. Autarkic drug discovery in Japanese pharmaceutical companies: Insights into national differences in industrial innovation. Research Policy Vol. 32: 1805-1827.
    [link to: front page, complete late draft] (PDF files)

  15. Kneller, Robert. 2003. University-industry cooperation and technology transfer in Japan compared with the US: another reason for Japan's economic malaise? University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law Vol. 24(2) pp. 329-449. (summer).
    (This article describes how university-industry cooperation occurred in Japan prior to the incorporation of universities in 2004, and the associated legal framework.)
    [link to article (PDF file)]

Recent Presentations

  1. Starting Companies in America to Commercialize Japanese Discoveries. Presentation on 14 Feb. 2012 in Tokyo as part of the University of Tokyo's Intellectual Property Management, New Business Forum, Project
    [link to bilingual PPT)]

  2. Linking Japanese University Science to Silicon Valley (or other overseas entrepreneurial regions). Presentation at the 84th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Japanese Biochemical Society, Kyoto, 24 Sept. 2011. (English slides with Japanese translation).
    [link to PPT)]

  3. University IP management and science-based entrepreneurship in Japan--impact on innovation and questions for America , 17 June 2011, Office of Technology Licensing, Stanford University
    [link to PPT)]

  4. University Technology Management and its Impact on Relations with Industry: A comparative Japan-US perspective. 30 June 2009 presentation to the 4th public seminar organized by the University of Tokyo's Endowed Chair for Intellectual Asset Management.
    [link to English PPT)] [日本語のPPT)]

  5. The Relevance for Developing Economies of Technology Transfer from Universities and Government Research Institutes. 25 June 2009 presentation to the Asian Productivity Organization's Multi-country Study Mission on Management of Technology (in Tokyo).
    [link to PPT)]


Mt.Fuji sunset final

University of Tokyo, RCAST, 4-6-1, Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8904 JAPAN
phone: +81-3-5452-5271 fax: +81-3-5452-5376 email: kneller << >> tt.rcast.u-tokyo.ac.jp