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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Orange Grove Bio partners with U Pittsburgh to bring new medicines to market


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

Orange Grove Bio, a drug investment and development firm in Ohio, is partnering with the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) to commercialize new therapeutics targeting a range of diseases including cancer. continue reading »

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Coming next week — SPACs and University Start-ups: Understanding and Assessing the Pros and Cons


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies) have become one of the hottest IPO trends, in large part due to the global pandemic and its effect on the stock market. This places university spinouts in an attractive position as SPAC managers are actively seeking M&A opportunities, and university start-ups are looking for viable options to go public. These new entities present real advantages, but pursuing a SPAC exit is anything but cut and dried.

These so-called “blank check” companies allow even an undersized start-up to go public and raise significant capital faster than it would with a conventional IPO. They can close a deal much faster compared to the cumbersome process of registering an IPO with the SEC, and they are a much more flexible vehicle for fundraising. Universities are just starting to turn attention to SPACs, and in a high profile deal worth $2 billion, Duke University spinout IonQ announced it had entered into a merger agreement with dMY Technology Group, a SPAC. 

However, SPACs are basically shell companies that have no commercial operations — leaving them open to controversy and risk. To assist TTOs and their start-ups in assessing the possibility of a SPAC transaction, we’ve scheduled this informative webinar: SPACs and University Start-ups: Understanding and Assessing the Pros and Cons, scheduled for next Tuesday, November 30, and featuring Michael J. Blankenship, partner in the Houston office of Winston and Strawn, LLP.

For complete details or to register, click here

Also coming soon:

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Quantum computer start-up with roots at Harvard and MIT raises $17M


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

A start-up launched by researchers at Harvard and MIT has raised $17 million to advance a technology that could lead to more powerful quantum computers. continue reading »

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IP Group and U of Washington launch start-up around bodily sensor technology


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

IP Group, a leading technology commercialization company, and CoMotion, the tech transfer arm and start-up accelerator at the University of Washington (UW), have partnered to launch a new nanotechnology company developing a state-of-the-art bodily sensor. continue reading »

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Imperial College London start-up raises $10M to advance wearable device for Parkinson’s patients


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

A start-up from Imperial College London (ICL) has raised $10 million in seed funding to commercialize a wearable device that alleviates symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. continue reading »

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PreveCeutical licenses cannabinoid delivery technology from U of Queensland


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

PreveCeutical Medical Inc., a health sciences company focused on developing therapies using organic and nature identical products, has signed a license agreement with UniQuest, the tech transfer arm of the University of Queensland, to commercialize a novel technology for the delivery of cannabinoids. continue reading »

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Comprehensive royalty rate database offers low-cost access to universities


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

Through a new partnership between Tech Transfer Central and Sectilis®, a service from RoyaltyStat, our university customers now have access to this incredibly powerful royalty rate database — at an incredibly affordable price.

These Sectilis features will enable you to benchmark royalty rates that reflect real-world conditions:

  • The Most Up-to-Date Data: Sectilis adds new data on a daily basis, ensuring you have access to the most recent disclosed transactions.
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  • Prepaid Royalty Rate Reports: Detailed transaction breakdowns include the royalty rate, licensing terms and patent number (if applicable) to facilitate analysis and documentation.
  • Summary Statistics: Royalty rate statistics by industry, IP type, effective year, region and country enable you to test the reasonability of your royalty range.

Annual subscriptions start at just $600 with access to the full database for searches along with 40 royalty rate reports. Each subscription includes knowledge-based customer service by experienced representatives, including assistance with the formulation of search criteria to find comparable royalty rates. Click here for details.

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Hebrew U start-up develops coating for fruits and vegetables to reduce food and plastic waste


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

A start-up from Hebrew University of Jerusalem aims to combat food waste and plastic waste using a novel water-based solution that protects produce during shipping. continue reading »

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U of Göttingen researchers use popcorn to create eco-friendly insulation material


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

Researchers at the University of Göttingen are using popcorn to create a less expensive, more environmentally friendly insulation material. continue reading »

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Comings and Goings


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 23rd, 2021

Duke University has chosen Jennifer Lodge, an accomplished scientist and research administrator, to serve as Vice President for Research and Innovation.

In her new role, Lodge will oversee Duke’s $1.2 billion annual research portfolio, lead tech transfer efforts, support start-up launches and work with industrial partners to commercialize Duke technologies.

Lodge previously served as Vice Chancellor for Research and Senior Associate Dean for Research for the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was responsible for research development, ethics, education and research administration systems.

“I am delighted to welcome Jenny to Duke and look forward to working with her to advance research support and opportunities for all Duke faculty members,” says Provost Sally Kornbluth. “Jenny brings to Duke an impressive track record of accomplishments both as a scientist and as a research administrator, as well as an exciting vision for supporting faculty and student innovation and commercialization activities.”

Lodge comments, “This is a spectacular opportunity because of the strength of the different schools and the many distinct disciplines at Duke. My philosophy has always been about enabling the rapid advancement of the creative research being done by faculty, staff and trainees, while keeping research ethics high.”

Source: Duke Today

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Start-up board positions must be filled carefully and used appropriately


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 17th, 2021

An in-depth article on the proper use of university board seats for faculty start-ups appears in the November issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

University leaders have long debated whether it is a good idea to have representation on the board of faculty start-up companies, but for those that favor taking a seat, there are still questions about how to structure that position. Some may want the board seat to be a full voting member, while others may go with an observer seat in which the person does not actively participate.

There are pros and cons to either position, as well as considerations for legal exposure and fiduciary obligations. The most important factor to consider, some say, is how to choose the right person for whichever type of board position you take.

The issue of how to structure a board seat was posed to AUTM members recently by Robin Rasor, MS, CLP, RTTP, associate vice president for translation and commercialization at Duke University. In an informal survey, she received responses from 19 universities, including two outside of the U.S. Including Duke in the numbers, 10 of the schools are private.

Rasor found that 35% take board seats sometimes or all the time, and 60% take observer rights sometimes or all of the time. Most board seats are filled by someone from the licensing office, but others used the CIO or a representative from a venture group with ties to the university.

Universities that prefer observer rights usually retain those until the equity holding is less than 4%, Rasor says. Some use a cutoff of a certain number of years or the completion of Series A as the termination point.

The goal behind having the board seat can dictate how it is structured, Rasor says. If the university wants to monitor progress by the company but also to provide help if needed, it might take observer status. A program that wants to more closely monitor and actively protect the university’s investment and equity value may opt for a full board seat, she explains.

“It’s fairly rare for the tech transfer office to take board of director seats, and one of the main reasons is the question of insurance and fiduciary responsibility,” she says. However, she adds, “I did have a few universities that said they take board of director seats because there is insurance that protects them in that role, whereas any other position wouldn’t have insurance. There is the liability aspect and the conflict question to consider.”

The board observer status was reported more commonly, though there was no apparent consistency in who takes these positions to watch out for the university’s interests, Rasor says. Some suggested an executive-in-residence or mentor. Most did indicate that they don’t intend for such a position to be permanent, she notes.

“By the time our [shares are] diluted down to nothing or they’re in Series A or B funding, hopefully they’re better off with more professional management. They don’t need as much help, and we don’t need to be watching over them as much,” Rasor says.

The Duke TTO has been struggling with how to handle board participation, partly because they spin off about 10 start-ups a year and have hundreds of active companies.

“Who has the time to listen in on all these board meetings? It becomes a time sink and struggle to decide where you put your focus,” Rasor says. “We’ve had some vibrant debates in the office, because for a number of years we routinely put board observer rights in our licenses. But we didn’t do a very good job of tracking and making sure we were getting invites, so we had the rights but weren’t pursuing the majority of them.”

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NJIT researchers join $1.25M project to identify and eliminate barriers for women inventors and entrepreneurs


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 17th, 2021

A team of researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has set out to identify and eradicate barriers to technology commercialization among women inventors and entrepreneurs.

According to a recent study, men with doctorates in STEM fields are nearly twice as likely to hold at least one patent as their female counterparts. The NJIT research team is part of a collaboration that has received a $1.25 million ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to get to the bottom of this discrepancy and others, and to come up with potential solutions that could help level the playing field when it comes to university tech transfer.

“It’s important to recognize and redress these inequities, not only as a matter of fairness, but also because the lack of diversity in entrepreneurship diminishes the diversity of new ideas and hurts U.S. technological innovation and economic competitiveness as a whole,” says Treena Arinzeh, professor at NJIT and member of the research team.

“One of the challenges is overcoming implicit biases, such as assumptions about whom we should encourage and who the top inventors are likely to be,” adds Nancy Steffen-Fluhr, associate professor at NJIT and member of the team. “Women have absorbed these biases, and, in some cases, feel their project has to be 100% perfect before they even pursue a patent.”

The team will collaborate with members of the New Jersey Equity in Commercialization Collective (NJECC), which includes NJIT, New Jersey City University, Princeton University, Rowan University and others. The participating universities will start by gathering data on their own campuses on entrepreneurial participation, including patent applications by gender, ethnicity and race.

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office itself has not collected this data systematically in the past,” says Steffen-Fluhr.

The group will then conduct anti-bias training for people in pivotal posts, or “gatekeepers,” including those who direct technology transfer offices; create strategies to broaden the inclusion of underrepresented inventors; and launch entrepreneurship programs to encourage these inventors.

The team’s overall goal is to significantly increase the diversity of STEM researchers in the state who become successful innovators and entrepreneurs.

“I worked first in industry and the mentality there is very much about commercializing innovations. I came to academia with a different mindset,” says Arinzeh, who holds 15 patents of her own. “I also had great collaborators here at NJIT, including men, who prompted me to pursue my ideas. But I know that for some women it can seem like a black box, particularly if they lack mentors. We need to make sure they understand the value of commercialization and how it can contribute to research and help secure grants, as well as how to go about it.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Empowering and Supporting Women and Underserved Populations in University Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a distance learning program detailing how the University of Florida and Washington University in St. Louis are bringing women and other underserved communities to the commercialization table and bringing positive change to their campuses. Click here for more details.

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