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U Georgia’s new start-up license offers speed and favorable terms in two-phase approach


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

A detailed article on UGA’s new Georgia Startup License appears in the April issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, click here.  

The University of Georgia’s Innovation Gateway is offering a new “Georgia Startup License” combining technical assistance with a streamlined technology licensing process that offers preferred terms. But in a new twist on the express licensing concept, the start-ups must meet certain criteria to qualify for the deal.

Innovation Gateway, the technology transfer office of the Athens-based university, created the express licensing program to speed the transition of IP from the laboratory to the marketplace, says Tim Martin, MS, associate director of the Startup Program with Innovation Gateway.

Like other express style programs, the Georgia Startup License offers a more efficient path to licensing than the traditional approach, minimizing the time and cost of negotiating an agreement, Martin says. But not all start-ups can qualify, which helps to ensure the new ventures are built to last.

“Over the past four or five years we’ve had discussions around how to simplify and streamline the start-up license process between the tech transfer office and start-ups coming out of University of Georgia research,” Martin says. “We tried to figure out the best practices from universities around the country, and I had previous experience with one at the University of North Carolina. Through that process we came to the Georgia Startup License, which incorporates some aspects of the express terms of a streamlined licensing process but adds in a lot of analysis and requirements that the start-up must meet in order to have access to those preferred terms.”

Martin describes UGA’s approach as a middle ground between the standard negotiating process with full diligence on the company and a streamlined, no-questions-asked express license.

“It’s somewhere in the middle where you have the ability to have some impact on the trajectory of the company, to understand and help them based on what’s expected of start-up companies coming out of universities,” he says.

The Georgia Startup License is available to UGA inventors and those who hold equity in a start-up company involving UGA IP.

The license uses a two-phase approach, which Martin says is aimed at ensuring start-ups that benefit from the preferred licensing terms have achieved some external validation, such as grant funding or dilutive investment.

In Phase I, UGA’s tech transfer team helps the start-up evaluate its market and business strategies, identify potential shortcomings, and develop an action plan to improve its overall readiness and maturity, Marin says. Once Innovation Gateway and the start-up finalize an action plan, the Express Option agreement becomes available. If the start-up chooses to exercise this option agreement, it offers the benefit of excluding competitors from the patent rights of interest.

In Phase II, the start-up implements the action plan developed in Phase I. It also participates in the UGA I-Corps or other entrepreneurial training and programming, working toward accomplishing predefined milestones.

When those requirements are met, the start-up can access to the express license — a standardized, non-negotiable agreement containing favorable terms and simplified costs compared to a typical UGA licensing agreement. (More information the Georgia Startup License is available online here.)

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Oxford start-up behind AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine files to go public


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

Vaccitech, the biotech start-up behind the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, has filed for an IPO in the U.S.

Vaccitech is aiming for a listed valuation of roughly $700 million, with some observers estimating that could reach $1 billion.

Vaccitech says it plans to use the proceeds to develop prostate cancer treatments based on the same technology it used to develop the vaccine.

The news comes on the heels of another Oxford vaccine start-up going public. That company, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, also collaborated with AstraZeneca to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. (See article: here.)

At the onset of the pandemic last year, Vaccitech was one of the most valuable companies under Oxford Sciences Innovation, the university’s commercialization arm. It had $4.8 million in revenue that year and has raised $216 million from major investors including Gilead Sciences and Alphabet Inc.’s GV, formerly Google Ventures.

Friday’s IPO filing notes that Vaccitech, as a co-developer, stands to make 24% of whatever royalties Oxford makes from the vaccine. The filing includes a caveat that Vaccitech hasn’t seen the full contract between Oxford and AstraZeneca – which the start-up’s bankers and lawyers have sought unsuccessfully. Shares in the company may begin trading as early as this week under the ticker symbol VACC.

Source: mint

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Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

Mouse models, cell lines, data, reagents, software…. Your university has a vast inventory of research materials and tools that represent valuable IP assets with significant licensing potential. The challenge is to find, categorize, and market them to create a new or expanded revenue stream for your TTO.

These tangible research materials, whether biological, chemical, physical, or otherwise represent significant untapped revenue. The key is identifying these materials and making them readily available for licensing via click-thru licenses for immediate revenue, as well as understanding the structure and negotiation strategy required for larger or bundled licenses.

To ensure you get maximum value from your research tool assets, Tech Transfer Central’s Distance Learning Division has partnered with attorney and UNeMed Business Development Manager Joe Runge for this detailed webinar: Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials, scheduled for April 21st.

For complete program details or to register, click here.

Also coming soon:

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U College London start-up raises $175.5M in IPO to develop novel treatment for solid tumors


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

A cancer treatment start-up from University College London (UCL) has raised $175.5 million through its initial public offering in the United States.

Based on research from UCL Hospitals, the UCL Cancer Institute and the Francis Crick Institute, Achilles Therapeutics is developing precision T cell therapies to treat multiple types of solid tumors.

Achilles’ technology targets clonal tumor neoantigens, or mutations formed early in the development of cancer. These mutations are expressed on every cancer cell but are absent from healthy tissue, making it a safer approach to treating tumors.

The $175.5 million will support the start-up’s ongoing Phase I/IIa trials, including a study of a clonal neoantigen T cell therapy in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

“This investment ultimately brings us closer to being able to offer these precision therapies which represent truly personalized care to our patients,” says Geoff Bellingan, medical director of the surgery and cancer board at UCLH. “These therapies are vital due to the current lack of treatment options for some of our patients with advanced cancers. Their development shows what can be achieved when clinicians, scientists, research staff and industry work together.”

Achilles was formed by Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team alongside Syncona Ltd., with the support of Crick and UCL Business.

“We’re delighted to see Achilles Therapeutics reach this milestone,” says Tony Hickson, chief business officer for Cancer Research UK. “We formed Achilles with Syncona to drive a revolution in cancer treatment using clonal neoantigens to develop personalized T cell therapies. Achilles highlights what can be achieved by us working in partnership with venture capital to form companies that have the potential to bring real impact to cancer patients.”

Source: NHS

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AB Science and UChicago sign license agreement to advance promising antiviral drug


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

Drug developer AB Science has entered into an exclusive license agreement with the University of Chicago (UChicago) to advance a novel treatment for nidoviruses, coronaviruses, and picornaviruses.

The agreement is centered on masitinib, an orally administered tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Researchers at UChicago have discovered that masitinib inhibits 3CLpro, the main protease necessary for the SARS-CoV-2 viral replication cycle.

Under the terms of the agreement, AB Science will supply masitinib and more than 130 other drugs developed by the company that have been shown to inhibit 3CLpro. In turn, AB Science will benefit from UChicago’s proprietary research platform.

If the drug is successfully commercialized, AB Science will benefit from an exclusive, royalty-bearing license on any discoveries made using its products, while UChicago will receive 1% of net sales on first registered product and 3% of net sales on further registered products.

UChicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation helped patent the technology and negotiated the license agreement with AB Science.

“The discovery of masitinib as an anti-protease against multiple coronaviruses is a major discovery,” says Nir Drayman, researcher at UChicago’s Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering. “Masitinib should be a priority drug to develop against COVID-19 and future emerging viruses. Unfortunately, this pandemic is not over, and the world urgently needs anti-virals to combat this virus, and masitinib is a very promising candidate”.

Alain Moussy, cofounder and CEO of AB Science, comments, “Collaboration is necessary for the rapid development of new drugs in the fight against this pandemic. We are proud to collaborate in all aspects with the School for Molecular Engineering of the University of Chicago, one of the best research centers in the world. Our ultimate objective in COVID-19 is to deliver as soon as possible a drug that is a direct antiviral against the protease of the virus.”

Source: StreetInsider

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U of Chicago Polsky Center enters partnership to launch the first quantum start-up accelerator in the U.S.


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

The University of Chicago (UChicago) Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has partnered with the Chicago Quantum Exchange to launch the first accelerator in the country focused solely on quantum technology start-ups.

The Duality accelerator will help quantum start-ups take their innovations from the lab to the marketplace. It comes at a time when Chicago is establishing itself as a leading global quantum center, with three of the eight federally funded quantum research centers based in the region.

Backed by $20 million in funding over the next 10 years from a variety of corporate and academic partners, Duality will support up to 10 start-ups each year, providing guidance from leading quantum researchers, as well as entrepreneurial support from UChicago’s Booth School of Business, Chicago Quantum Exchange’s corporate partners, and other business leaders.

“The Chicago area has a vital role in generating new science and technology, and Duality will provide critical support to bring quantum science from breakthroughs in the laboratory to practical applications that can foster new businesses, create jobs and improve aspects of the quality of life,” says Robert J. Zimmer, president of UChicago.

“This program leverages the unique strengths of the University of Chicago and our partners to convene industry, researchers and venture capitalists to realize the potential of quantum science while simultaneously providing mutual benefit to the research and academic mission of the University of Chicago,” Zimmer adds.

“We are building the future of technology right here in Chicago,” says Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This program taps the extraordinary talent in the city across fields from science and innovation to entrepreneurship, manufacturing and development, and is a testament to the strengths of this incredible city and its residents.”

Source: Cision

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Mind the Gap 2020: The University Gap Fund and Accelerator Program Report


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

The Mind the Gap Report 2020 is a one-of-a-kind guide for current and aspiring university gap fund managers detailing 141 gap funding programs affiliated with 84 research institutions. It provides critical insights and details into their sources of sustainability, processes and management, and ultimately their impact on the innovation community and its capabilities.

It’s the go-to source for comprehensive best practices, benchmarking, and program development guidance for university affiliated gap fund and accelerator programs. Through a mix of data, benchmarks, strategies, and impact measures, this valuable report provides success stories that managers and stakeholders can use to build towards their unique fund objectives.

For complete details including a report summary, click here.

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Rational Vaccines and LSU sign license agreement to advance herpes vaccine


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

Rational Vaccines has entered into a license agreement with Louisiana State University (LSU) to advance a vaccine against the herpes virus.

Developed by LSU researcher Konstantin ‘Gus’ Kousoulas, the VC2 vaccine has demonstrated great promise in treating Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) as well as facial and ocular herpes in animal models.

According to Kousoulas, the VC2 is unique in that it prevents the virus from entering the neurons. Typically, HSV infiltrates a person’s neurons and remains latent within the nervous system and can reactivate to cause substantial disease. This means some patients can be asymptomatic carriers, spreading the virus while showing no signs of infection themselves.

Through the license agreement, Rational Vaccines will advance VC2 towards clinical trials, with the goal of deploying it as a prophylactic vaccine in the fight against HSV-1, which affects over four billion people worldwide.

“We are one step closer to eradicating the herpes virus,” says Kousoulas. “Taking our research and moving it into clinical trials through Rational Vaccines ensures a clear path to delivering a vaccine that can ease pain and suffering from herpes.”

Edward Gershburg, chief technology officer at Rational Vaccines, comments, “The signing of this license agreement is an important event for our ongoing live-attenuated vaccine development program and is reflective of our optimism and commitment to rapidly advancing the program. We anticipate that multiple HSV vaccines will be necessary for the goal of broad public health protection. The VC2 mutant, which has shown safety and efficacy in animal studies, if successfully developed, will become a critical vaccine to address the ongoing ‘silent’ HSV epidemic.”

Source: Cision

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U of Edinburgh start-up develops “liquid biopsy” device to detect and monitor cancer


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

A University of Edinburgh start-up has raised over £1 million to commercialize a “liquid biopsy” technology that could revolutionize the early diagnosis and monitoring of difficult-to-detect cancers.

BioCaptiva has developed a device that captures circulating free DNA (cfDNA) from patients’ blood in much greater quantities than a single blood draw, which is the current standard for liquid biopsies.

The BioCollector device has shown potential to detect early-stage cancers in patients without the need for a surgical biopsy. It has also shown promise as a new approach to monitoring and detecting disease recurrence.

The £1 million seed investment from Scottish Enterprise and Archangels, an Edinburgh-based investment firm, will help BioCaptiva in-license the technology and carry out its first human clinical trials.

“The BioCollector is a disruptive technology which will be transformational for liquid biopsy testing,” says Jeremy Wheeler, CEO of BioCaptiva. “We are confident that this platform technology can make a significant impact in this important area and, ultimately, enable cancers to be detected more quickly and accurately, enabling patients to receive precision cancer treatment as early as possible.”

Source: UKTN

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Ben-Gurion researchers use probiotic yogurt to develop new anti-inflammatory drugs


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) are developing drugs derived from probiotic yogurt to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other inflammatory conditions.

BGU professor Raz Jelinek and PhD student Orit Malka led the research, showing that certain molecules isolated from kefir, a fermented dairy product, have the potential to effectively combat pathogenic bacteria. In particular, the researchers showed that the molecules were able to significantly reduce virulence of Vibro cholerae, which is known to cause cholera.

Jelinek and Malka also demonstrated that the molecules have dramatic anti-inflammatory properties in various pathological conditions, including “cytokine storms,” a lethal immune response and one of the main causes of death in COVID-19 patients.

“These results are notable, since this is the first demonstration that virulence of human pathogenic bacteria can be mitigated by molecules secreted in probiotic milk products, such as yogurt or kefir,” said Jelinek. “Following promising results in animal models, we look forward to administering these drug candidates to humans, for example to patients who are experiencing a cytokine storm due to COVID-19 infection, or people suffering from acute inflammatory bowel pathologies, such as Crohn’s disease.”

Josh Peleg, CEO of BGN Technologies, comments, “In a reality where antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming an imminent threat, the novel molecules discovered by BGU scientists pave a completely new path for fighting bacterial infections by disrupting cell-cell communications in pathogenic bacteria.”

BGN Technologies, the university’s tech transfer arm, recently formed a start-up to further develop and commercialize the technology.

Source: Cision

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European Institute of Innovation and Technology launches new center to boost university tech transfer


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 14th, 2021

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is launching a new center to boost tech commercialization among universities in the EU.

Backed by €9 million (over $10.7M US) in funding, the Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education center will help universities strengthen their industry ties, develop tech transfer services, enhance the quality of their entrepreneurial education programs, and gain relevant knowledge and expertise.

The center will accept up to three universities and one other organization to participate. Twenty-three selected projects will be given six months to draft initial plans and begin implementation. Each project will receive up to €400,000. If they are successful, they can move on to the next phase and receive another €800,000.

According to EIT director Martin Kern, the program builds on the institute’s prior €60 million call for projects addressing the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. From that program, a group of start-ups received funding within a few weeks of applying, enabling them to develop healthcare products and services with no delay.

“That was the first time this happened,” Kern says. “This [program] is following the same logic,” hoping to move from idea to market as rapidly as possible.

Source: Science | Business

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Supreme Court ruling in Google v. Oracle has major implications for software copyrights


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

The Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of Google in a long-running copyright dispute against Oracle that has huge implications for Silicon Valley, and for university TTOs seeking copyright protection for software innovations.

The court found that Google did not violate the law when it used more than 11,000 lines of Oracle’s software code in developing its Android mobile operating system. The tech industry in the U.S. has carefully watched the case since it will help determine rules around building software, and how much code from other programs constitutes “fair use.” A decision in the other direction could have brought upheaval to the huge software industry, calling into question the legality of many software innovations that are built on pieces of other programs.

The decision addresses how U.S. copyright applies to API — software code that enables programs to work with each other. Google had been accused of pilfering a sizable cache of API code developed by Sun Microsystems, which was later acquired by Oracle.

“We assume, for argument’s sake, that the material was copyrightable,” the decision said. “But we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google’s copying did not violate the copyright law,” the ruling stated.  

Google argued that API is regularly used freely by developers to increase interoperability between different products and should be covered by the fair use provisions in copyright law, which allow the unlicensed use of otherwise copyrighted material under some circumstances.

Oracle had argued that the code was protected under copyright law, and that Google should have paid for using it.

Both sides also made arguments for why their position was important to future innovation in the field. Google said that applying stringent copyright protections to APIs would chill developers who build many important software products using shared code. Oracle countered that looser restrictions would discourage programmers from investing deeply in software development, knowing that the resulting code could be used by others without compensation.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Google’s use of Oractle’s API “included only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program.”

Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, described the ruling as a victory for innovation. “The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers,” he said.

Source: Politico

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Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

Mouse models, cell lines, data, reagents, software…. Your university has a vast inventory of research materials and tools that represent valuable IP assets with significant licensing potential. The challenge is to find, categorize, and market them to create a new or expanded revenue stream for your TTO.

These tangible research materials, whether biological, chemical, physical, or otherwise represent significant untapped revenue. The key is identifying these materials and making them readily available for licensing via click-thru licenses for immediate revenue, as well as understanding the structure and negotiation strategy required for larger or bundled licenses.

To ensure you get maximum value from your research tool assets, Tech Transfer Central’s Distance Learning Division has partnered with attorney and UNeMed Business Development Manager Joe Runge for this detailed webinar: Best Practices for Licensing Research Tools and Materials, scheduled for April 21st.

For complete program details or to register, click here.

Also coming soon:

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Princeton’s innovation ‘czar’ brings new life to campus entrepreneurship


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

A detailed article on Princeton’s push to create a regional innovation hub appears in the March issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, click here.  

What can an innovation “czar” accomplish in one year? At Princeton University, a lot, as it turns out.

Under the leadership of Rodney Priestley, Princeton’s first vice dean for innovation, the  university is turning its well-established but not yet well-known standing as a seed bed of innovation and entrepreneurship into a powerhouse. The school hopes to create an innovation hub in New Jersey that school officials believe will rival the impact of other hubs across the country.

With President Christopher Eisgruber at the helm, Princeton took significant steps in its journey in innovation and entrepreneurship almost six years ago when a university advisory committee outlined a future vision for entrepreneurship. The university created the Princeton Entrepreneurial Council (PEC) as an entrepreneurial hub, and also created a position in the Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) for a new ventures associate.

PEC Executive Director Anne-Marie Maman and New Ventures Associate Tony Williams started work within a week of each other, tasked with putting a 21-point entrepreneurship and innovation plan to put in place. The two dug in and implemented the plan within two years. “We’ve gone way past those first 20 points and grown beyond it,” says Maman.

In 2020, feeling the time was right to provide academic leadership in the entrepreneurship arena, Provost Deborah Prentice and Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti created a vice dean for innovation position and appointed Priestley to fill it. Debenedetti also moved the PEC under the Office of the Dean for Research’s umbrella, reporting to Priestley. Now, the PEC was closer to OTL and Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations (CEFR), both already part of the Office of the Dean of Research.

More recently, the university sent another powerful signal in support of innovation and entrepreneurship when it hired Andrea Goldsmith, a celebrated engineer and entrepreneur, as Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Goldsmith came to Princeton after 22 years on the Stanford faculty, starting her new position in the midst of the pandemic in September 2020.

Priestley’s and Goldsmith’s long-term vision is to establish an innovation and tech hub in New Jersey that promotes inclusiveness and diversity, blending science and engineering with the humanities and social sciences.

The pair agree that the time is right for this far-reaching effort, noting the recent exodus of “young techies” from Silicon Valley, many of whom are putting down stakes in the New York City area and seeking work or building companies in fields where Princeton shines — biotech, computer science, data science, quantum tech, and smart cities.

Princeton sits at the halfway mark in the corridor between New York City and Philadelphia, she adds, where there is a growing demand for engineering knowledge and entrepreneurship. Add to those trends the availability of inexpensive land and New Jersey is in a position similar to Stanford University in the 1950s, Goldsmith contends.

It also helps, she says, that “our governor is pushing entrepreneurship in New Jersey in a very new and important and innovative way…. So there are things that are different now about Princeton’s location and opportunity that make it right for this ability to launch and serve as a catalyst for a tech hub.”

The university is preparing for that future by developing a new 500-acre campus across Lake Carnegie that will provide more room for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship activities. The university has also agreed to be the first institutional tenant in a new collaborative innovation site in New Brunswick, NJ, a city 15 miles north of Princeton.

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Gene sequencing spinout from Oxford, valued at £2.3B, is going public


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

A gene sequencing company with roots at Oxford University is going public, and its three founders stand to pocket up to £150M (over $207M US) between them.

Oxford Nanopore has developed a DNA and RNA tracking technology that can be used for rapid detection of diseases, virus immunity checks and tumor sequencing. The company has also created a portable device, Minion, to carry out the testing. It’s the size of a smartphone, eliminating the need for heavy equipment.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Oxford Nanopore’s technology was used by scientists in 85 countries, enabling them to identify one fifth of virus genomes.

Oxford Nanopore has an overall business value of $2.3 billion, according to IP Group, which owns a 15% stake in the company. But analysts believe that number could easily reach up to £4 billion (over $5.54B US).

“We believe an IPO is the start of the next phase of our journey,” says co-founder Gordon Sanghera. “Access to deeper, international pools of capital would support our ambitious growth plans, enhancing our ability to innovate and scale our manufacturing and commercial functions.”

Source: Brinkwire

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Case Western biotech start-up acquired by Amgen for $55M


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

A start-up from Case Western Reserve University has been acquired by global biotech company Amgen for $55 million.

Rodeo Therapeutics develops small-molecule therapies that promote the regeneration and repair of multiple tissues for patients with colitis and other conditions. The start-up is based on research from Case Western researchers.

Under the acquisition, Amgen will take all outstanding shares of Rodeo for $55 million, plus future contingent milestone payments potentially worth up to an additional $666 million in cash.

“Amgen’s purchase of Rodeo marks a giant step forward toward bringing this Case Western Reserve-developed technology to patients,” says Rodeo co-founder Sanford Markowitz. “We are thrilled to be partnering with a world-class pharmaceutical company like Amgen, and to be able to benefit from its team of outstanding scientists and drug developers — as well as the company’s financial resources — to speed the development of this promising new class of drugs.”

Mark Chance, vice dean for research at Case Western’s school of management, comments, “This technology and these results are an example of how our process of identifying and investing in our own discoveries is working and is being recognized by the biotech industry. Rodeo is only one example of the many companies started by Case Western Reserve University that are attracting the investors and investments needed to get our medical breakthroughs to patients.”

Source: Case Western Reserve Newsroom

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Library of royalty rate benchmarking references


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

2Market Information Inc., publisher of Tech Transfer eNews, offers a wealth of benchmarking resources filled with real-world royalty rates, license fees, milestone payments and other deal terms. Click on the titles below for detailed information, including tables of contents, and to order:

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New structure brings Ohio State’s innovation activity under one umbrella


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

The Ohio State University has reorganized its departments supporting innovation and entrepreneurship under a new umbrella group in a bid to “provide stronger supports for our entrepreneurial and business community while also better connecting our world-class researchers to the resources they need to translate their research discoveries,” according to a university release.

The new entity overseeing it all is Enterprise for Research, Innovation and Knowledge (ERIK), which has been formed under the leadership of Executive Vice President Grace Wang. It joins tech transfer, economic development, corporate engagement, sponsored research, with an office administration arm supporting all those efforts. In addition, the new unit will focus on the development of the Innovation District on Ohio State’s West Campus.

“This is an exciting time for our storied institution,” said Wang. “We have the opportunity to drive the growth of research, creative expression, and innovation, build our Innovation District, and advance Ohio State as a leading research institution and economic engine.”

The new structure includes these five pillars:

  • The Office of Innovation and Economic Development — currently known as the Corporate Engagement Office — will continue to work to advance innovation and technology commercialization, manage intellectual property, build corporate partnerships, stimulate entrepreneurial and start-up activities, and support the region’s economic development efforts.
  • The Office of Research will lead efforts to grow Ohio State’s research and creative expression enterprise, including operations, sponsored programs and research compliance.
  • The Office of Knowledge Enterprise will work to identify existing and emerging research opportunities and provide resources and support to grow research talent.
  • The Business Development and Innovation District pillar will handle communications, marketing, business development and strategic events to support the unit as well as economic development activities related to the Innovation District.
  • The Office Administration pillar will support the leadership team in effective execution of the enterprise agenda and operations, including strategic planning, budget, human resources and more.

Source: Ohio State University

Proven Strategies for Rebranding and Revitalizing your TTO is a distance learning collection focusing on the standout rebranding projects at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Virginia. Click here for details.

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Ohio State start-up raises $116M to advance treatments for neuromuscular diseases


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

The new innovation structure at Ohio State (see article above) got off to a fast start with the announcement of a $116 million investment secured for one of its most promising start-ups.

Entrada Therapeutics has developed a novel approach to treating “undruggable” diseases by enabling drug delivery to the intracellular space. The company will initially focus on developing treatments for commercialize treatments for multiple neuromuscular diseases.

Dehua Pei, professor at OSU and co-founder of Entrada, says the new investment helps validate the technology behind the approach. “Drug delivery has always been the challenge,” says Pei. “Companies have always been limited by what they can do, if a targeted approach is what they are going after.”

About 80% of all drug targets are out of reach of current drug development approaches. Those drugs are termed “undruggable” by the drug discovery community.

“There has really been a lot of incentive to find a way to get access to this 80% of undruggable targets,” says Pei. “That really has been the focus of my research as well as that of many other folks around the world.”

Pei also hopes that the startup’s successes will serve as an inspiration to his students and emerging researchers at OSU.

“I really hope that students will get two things out of this. One is that things they may think are impossible actually might be possible if you give it an honest try,” he said. “The second thing is that I certainly hope that my own students will get to see that even the greatest research starts with little things. Every day you do a job, you do things carefully, you make progress.”

Source: Ohio State News

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KAHR licenses immunotherapy drug candidates from Thomas Jefferson U


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

Cancer immunotherapy company KAHR has entered into a licensing agreement with Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) to advance multiple new drug candidates developed at the university.

The licensed candidates include fusion proteins DSP502 and DSP216, both designed to unleash the potential of innate and adaptive immune cells and to enhance anti-tumor immunoactivity through dual checkpoint inhibition.

“With this agreement we are adding a second fusion protein platform to our portfolio, enabling us to broaden our immuno-oncology target pipeline and positioning KAHR as a world leader in the fusion protein space,” says Yaron Pereg, CEO of KAHR. “These products are differentiated from current drug candidates targeting the same pathways as they target the ligands, not the receptors, thus increasing tumor selectivity by dual binding and avoiding potential redundancy compensation by other receptors of the same ligands.”

Mark Tykocinski, provost of TJU, comments, “Expanding our collaboration with the outstanding team at KAHR provides the opportunity to expand this new platform into novel targets and to unleash the activity of other immune cell types of the innate and adaptive immune systems.”

Heather Rose, the university’s Innovation Vice President, led the negotiations for the licensing agreement. “The synergy between Dr. Tykocinski’s innovative work on activation of anti-cancer immunity using multifunctional recombinant proteins and KAHR’s dedication to the development of cutting-edge immuno-recruitment cancer drugs is the next step to accelerate the translation of this technology to the clinic,” Rose says.

Source: Cision

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Purdue researchers develop engine monitoring device based on electrocardiograms


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2021

Researchers at Purdue University have developed a turbine engine monitoring device based on the medical devices used to monitor heart rhythms.

The technology monitors rhythms in gas turbine engines and warns of potential compressor stall, using sensors to record the data during operation. The device then uses a novel signal processing procedure to determine the engine’s status.

The Purdue researchers designed the device to be similar to an electrocardiogram. According to lead researcher Nicole Key, “like a heart attack in humans, compressor stall can happen without apparent precursors.”

“It is hard to identify the small disturbances associated with compressor stall from the ones associated with turbulent flow,” explains Fangyuan Lou, a researcher in Key’s lab. “When evident precursors occur, the gas turbine engine runs into stall within a few milliseconds. That is not enough warning time for action.”

Key adds that “an effective stall warning and avoidance technique is of great value to gas turbine engines used in aviation and land-based applications.”

The researchers worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) to patent the technology. They are now looking for partners to continue developing the stall detection system.

Source: Purdue Research Foundation News

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Sweat Equity Challenge attracts software start-ups for NC State


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

A detailed article on the NC State Sweat Equity Challenge appears in the March issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, click here.  

Along with the ongoing challenge to generate invention disclosures from faculty comes the old maxim “be careful what you wish for.” In many cases when disclosures are received, the ideas are not fully conceived or validated enough to warrant allocation of the TTO’s limited resources. And even when the IP is well described, it often arrives with little knowledge of the target market or validation of the market need.

With these challenges in mind, Jason Lamb, JD, LLM, senior licensing associate in North Carolina State University’s Office of Research Commercialization (ORC), created the NC State Sweat Equity Challenge with the help and enthusiastic support of ORC Director of Licensing Kultaran Chohan and Assistant Vice Chancellor Wade Fulghum. The program encourages a way for innovators to take their less than fully formed ideas through vetting and a rigorous customer discovery process.

Lamb manages a portfolio of technologies centered around software, industrial design, and data technologies from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the College of Design. While the disclosures in his area are plentiful, says Lamb, “by and large, most of the people I was engaging with . . . just had great software ideas and they didn’t know how to connect the rest of the dots. They often do not have a true sense of market demand nor do they have the coding resources to create a basic prototype.”

Lamb also suspected that many potentially good ideas floating around campus never came to the ORC’s attention. “You look around, and you see successful companies that are software-based,” says Lamb. “But we’re not launching many of those companies. The same types of ideas are bubbling around NC State. They’re just not getting out.” Lamb saw this disparity as a potential opportunity to discover, nurture and commercialize these software ideas at ORC, so he launched the Sweat Equity Challenge as the mechanism to accomplish this.

One might think that if a person comes up with a good idea for software, they also would know how to create code for that software. However, as Lamb points out, this is very often not the case. Furthermore, they do not necessarily have the wherewithal to connect with the professional services needed to get the coding done for them. Tapping into computer science students on campus is often not a good solution because the deliverable schedule might not fit into their coursework or the students may not have the level of professionalism required to work on a start-up project. Freelance work is another option, but the cost might be prohibitive.

Enter the Software Challenge, which not only overcomes these obstacles but generates a clear sense of market demand and market fit for the idea.

The Sweat Equity Challenge is open to anyone; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a university faculty member, employee, or university student. The only requirement is that if the applicant decides to form a start-up, the venture must use and license university-owned IP. The IP is created after market validation and during the Phase 3 prototype development phase. If an undergraduate applies with an idea based on IP they’ve already created (such as an existing prototype or design), they retain ownership of the existing IP under university policy. The same is true for non-NC State applicants or any existing IP not owned by the university. However, if the idea holds up to market validation, the applicants have the choice to go and create their own start-up or to work with the university and sign over existing IP. The university would then issue a license to the start-up to use the existing and any newly created IP developed during Phase 3 the program.

Each year, NC State sees about 40 to 50 Sweat Equity Challenge applicants. Each applicant submits a two-page document identifying a problem in the market and their proposed solution. They also disclose whether they have any existing code or a version of the solution already made.

The program hasn’t yet become well known on campus, but Lamb has plans to remedy that by “painting the entire campus” with the message that the program is meant for everyone in the NC State community and encouraging anyone with an idea to fill out an application.

The number of students vs. faculty who apply to the program is about an even 50/50 split. However, of the applications selected for the customer discovery step, about 80% are faculty, many with graduate students and postdocs as part of their team. “We get many applications that aren’t as fully formed from the student groups, and typically faculty will be submitting something that they’ve done research on over a number of years,” explains Lamb. He hopes to create a course in the future that would help students to write higher-quality applications.

ORC and their selection committee review the applications and choose about 10 individuals or teams to go through the market validation step. Those selected go through a four-week market assessment short course, a version of the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program. During this course, the participants interview potential customers and strategic partners to see if they can validate their business hypotheses in the market. “We’re teaching teams to divorce themselves from their particular technology and think more about market needs and desires,” explains Lamb.

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Australian National U start-up creates a quantum computer the size of a lunch box


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

A start-up from Australian National University (ANU) has developed a quantum computer that is smaller, easier to operate, and capable of performing at room temperature – features that could open quantum technology to many more businesses.

Quantum Brilliance has harnessed synthetic diamonds to build quantum accelerators that, when integrated with supercomputers, could revolutionize a wide range of research fields, such as logistics, machine learning, defense, aerospace, and finance.

Quantum Brilliance’s computer is the size of a lunch box and, unlike other quantum computers, doesn’t require super-low temperatures or complex laser systems to function. “Our product operates at room temperature, is cheaper, has lower energy consumption and just needs a power point and ethernet port to work,” says Mark Luo, chief operating officer at Quantum Brilliance.

Because of its simplicity, the computer can be mass-deployed in data centers, hospitals, mines, spacecrafts, and even in laptops.

“It’s very robust,” Luo adds. “You can just slot it in and start doing work that you’ve always wanted to do. It really lowers the barrier to entry for quantum computing.”

Brian Schmidt, vice-chancellor at ANU, says he expects the university’s investment in Quantum Brilliance will see returns in a significant way.

“The university’s goal to create a billion-dollar company in the next five years will happen by supporting research commercialization for spin-outs like Quantum Brilliance,” Schmidt says. “Quantum Brilliance is a company in its early days. But while it is early days, backing it now could lead to huge pay-offs for all of us.”

Source: Financial Review

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Post-License Royalty Audits: Strategies for Discovering, Managing and Avoiding Discrepancies in Reporting


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

A successful licensing compliance program should be a self-sustaining effort that utilizes multiple compliance tools — including onsite audits — and delivers a strong message to licensees that you intend to enforce and protect your IP rights. Royalty audits can and should be a critical part of every TTO’s license compliance efforts.

Studies show that over 90% of royalty audits reveal underpayments. There are myriad factors that contribute to the underreporting of royalties: misunderstanding of the terms in the original agreement, financial hardship of the licensee, new products launched and not accounted for, sublicensing payments, and many others.

An effective royalty audit program can pay for itself many times over, since instances of underreporting can represent hundreds of thousands of lost dollars — dollars that could have been reinvested in research or IP development, not to mention the TTO’s own operating budget. To help you unearth that “missing” revenue, we’re producing this practical webinar: Post-License Royalty Audits: Strategies for Discovering, Managing and Avoiding Discrepancies in Reporting.

Join us on April 27th when Karen Wang, Director in the Disputes, Compliance, & Investigations group with Stout, discusses critical issues associated with royalty reporting and compliance, and proven strategies to ensure you receive every penny you deserve.

For complete details or to register, click here.

Also coming soon:

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Oxford U researchers release cheap, quick COVID-19 antibody test


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

Oxford University scientists, joined by an international research team, have developed a portable COVID-19 antibody test that could help end the pandemic.

The test can be adapted to work on blood from a finger prick – making it quick and easy to use. The research team, which includes scientists from Taiwan, India, Thailand and France, as well as UK university and NHS researchers, trialed the test on COVID-19 patients and will next attempt to identify those who have successfully generated antibodies after a vaccine versus those who may need a booster.

The scientists also hope that the large-scale use of their tests might help researchers and policy-makers track levels of protective immunity in the community.

Though COVID antibody tests already exist, they are expensive and usually require a central laboratory to analyze them – a critical problem in low-income countries.

Study lead Professor Alain Townsend from the Oxford’s MRC Human Immunology Unit  says the new test “is very cheap to produce, so we are using existing funding from charitable donations to offer 10 million tests for research purposes to countries that cannot support very high-tech solutions.”

The test relies on linking a part of the viral spike protein to the surface of red blood cells. When antibodies to the virus are present they create a clump of red blood cells, which can be seen by the naked eye with no lab analysis needed. It also requires no special equipment, produces rapid results, and has high accuracy. “It correctly identifies coronavirus spike protein antibodies 90% of the time, with less than a 1% false positive rate,” Townsend reports.

“All we need to do is mix a low-cost reagent with a small blood sample, and the clumping of the red cells after one hour shows whether the blood sample contained antibodies against the novel coronavirus or not,” he explains. The test can is so simple, in fact, it can be done at home. 

The Townsend-Jeantet charitable trust, run by Townsend, will fund the production of sufficient reagent for 10 million test wells by the Oxford spinout Absolute Antibody.

“We are already distributing our test reagent to researchers who need them anywhere in the world, free of charge. So far, we supplied our tests to researchers in twenty-one different countries, with major studies using our antibody test in Norway, Colombia, Taiwan and Sri Lanka,” he says. Newer versions of the reagent can test for antibodies to the new variants now circulating in various regions.

Professor Alison Simmons, director of the MRC Human Immunology Unit, said the new antibody test represents “a very valuable asset to our toolbox in our fight against the novel coronavirus. With better ways of testing antibody levels and understanding immune defenses of individuals and across populations, we increasingly take steps towards being able to protect more people globally and control spread of the virus.”

Source: Oxford University

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VC advice for early-revenue start-ups: 3 ways to focus your time and energy


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

Itay Sagie, a strategic adviser to start-ups and investors and founder of VCforU.com, offers some words of wisdom for early-stage ventures that have gotten initial funding and begun earning real money – but whose choices at this early stage can make a huge difference in whether they succeed over the long-term.

Sagie notes that the typical runway for start-ups at this stage is 12-24 months, and to get beyond that point they need one of two things – additional VC funds or more revenue. Or it they’re really lucky, both.

But when determining where to focus their efforts, he comes decidedly down on the side of generating more revenue to become sustainable.

“VCs are becoming more conservative, and look to invest in post-revenue, ARR-driven, profit-seeking startups. If you are pondering if you should prioritize a sales call or a VC call, prioritize the sales call,” he advises. “If you look at EV/sales ratio in SaaS tech startups, the average is around eight, so a single dollar in sales is worth up to $8 in your company’s valuation.

Another key issue often faced early on in how to prioritize marketing expend, Sagie add. Should it go toward a marketing campaign seeking new customers, or to internal efforts to further monetize existing customer relationships. “While many choose the former, the latter will have a bigger impact on your growth,” he says.

“Monetizing your existing customers, and keeping them happy and paying, is far more important than reaching out to new customers, if they too will end up paying very little and churning fast. Fixing your monetization and retention rates should be prioritized over user acquisition,” he explains. Later, once your product is well entrenched and you’re sporting a high retention rate, you can begin shifting more resources toward new customer acquisition. “This is equivalent to fixing a broken engine: only after you’ve done that do you go out and buy fuel,” Sagie observes.

When working with VCs, some questions can be answered by simply understanding their financial goals. One of those is which markets to address – the niche that’s a perfect fit, or the broader market opportunities that may be more difficult to attack but which offer big potential growth rates.

“The VC math is pretty simple: In an ideal scenario, if you get $20 million in venture funding, the investor expects to receive 10x back, meaning $200 million. As these investors own about 20% to 30% of the company, they expect a valuation of $600 million [to] $1 billion. Because revenue multiples (EV/sales ratio) are around eight, that means you should reach revenue of at least $75 million. This will only be possible if you are targeting huge markets with high growth potential,” Sagie points out.

Many companies ignore the obvious math and focus on narrow use cases because they may represent easy wins or low-hanging fruit. “However, once you go down this path, your website, your company presentations, and before long, your investor decks will be filled with information on this niche use case, as it is your main or only source of revenue.” That’s the equivalent of being typecast as an actor – and won’t get you to your goal of become a leading role star.

Becoming a niche company “will not bring you close anytime soon to the revenue or valuation that venture investors are after, it will end up hurting both your fundraising efforts and commercial success,” he says.

Source: Crunchbase News

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The Complete Start-Up Boot Camp for University TTOs – a resource for at-home training and education of faculty, staff, and students


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

The disruption related to the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean you have to stop educating faculty, staff, and students on the challenges associated with launching and successfully managing university start-ups. Tech Transfer Central has created a distance learning resource that’s inexpensive, comprehensive, and can be accessed by your staff and faculty wherever and whenever it’s needed.

The Complete Start-Up Boot Camp for University TTOs is the perfect resource to take inventors and your staff step-by-step through the venture creation process from launch to exit – all from home. This 22-session distance learning series — in three outstanding volumes led by a world-class roster of academic start-up experts — contains over 25 hours of detailed guidance and advice. Each program will provide the detailed training and strategies your faculty, students, and staff need to more effectively launch and manage start-ups, as well as foster a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem to support them.

Click here for complete details.

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U of Minnesota research team develops replacement heart valve that grows as children grow


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

A research team at the University of Minnesota (U of M) has developed a replacement heart valve that is able to grow in the human body over time.

The valve is specifically designed for pediatric patients. According to lead researcher Robert Tranquillo, thousands of children in the U.S. are born with congenital heart defects every year, including some who require open-heart surgery due to missing or malformed valves.

The U of M researchers use donor skin cells to create the tissue for the valve. It’s a seven-week process, at the end of which the skin cells are removed with detergent. After this decellularization, the valves have a longer shelf life before being implanted into a recipient. “The material we use is unique to our laboratory. It’s something we’ve been working on almost my entire career here at Minnesota,” Tranquillo explained. 

The researchers tested the technology on sheep, as their hearts are roughly the same size as the human heart. The team found that the valve grew inside the sheep from a diameter of 19mm to about 25mm. It also improved blood flow function compared to current valves.

“The current replacement valves that are available don’t have the ability to grow, so these babies face the prospect of repeated open heart surgeries until they become fully grown adults,” says Tranquillo. “We see a lot of potential impact for this and that gets us out of bed every morning. It could have a huge impact for the baby, that family and the health care system as a whole.”

The technology has been patented and licensed to U of M startup Vascudyne. Tranquillo says the sheep test results bring the valve one step closer to clinical trials in humans, which he hopes will happen in three to five years. If the valve receives FDA approval, he adds, it could be used in hospitals within the next five to eight years.

Source: KSTP

The Medical Innovation Playbook, from the experts at The Cleveland Clinic, is the first-ever resource documenting commercialization activity, strategies, and results at the country’s top academic medical centers. Click here for details.

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Arch Biopartners licenses infectious wound treatment from U of Cincinnati


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

Clinical stage biotech company Arch Biopartners has entered into an exclusive license agreement with the University of Cincinnati (UC) to advance a novel treatment for a variety of wound infections.

The agreement is centered on a topical application known as AB569, which was developed by UC researcher Daniel Hassett. The treatment targets multi-drug resistant, difficult-to-treat infections in the lungs, battle-related wounds, surgical incisions, and diabetic skin ulcers.

AB569 is particularly advantageous in the treatment of burn and blast wounds. A major cause of morbidity among soldiers, these wounds are especially difficult to treat when infected, as they often grow resistant to antibiotics. To counter this, AB569 has been designed to kill the drug-resistant bacteria responsible for over half of all severe burn infections.

The new agreement between Arch Biopartners and UC builds on the existing license of AB569 that Arch has with the university, extending it to a gel-based formulation.

“With this new license, Arch now has a commercial path to develop the topical wound gel version of AB569 for clinical use,” says the company’s CEO Richard Muruve. “We look forward to exploring opportunities where Arch can support human trials targeting the prevention and treatment of antibiotic resistant infections in wounds.”

Source: BioSpace

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VA scientists develop sensor technology to prevent wheelchair injuries


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 31st, 2021

Scientists at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center have created a footplate sensor technology for wheelchairs to help prevent injuries to the users’ lower limbs.

The low-cost, wireless device monitors the user’s foot position in real-time using 23 force-sensing resistors and 14 infrared distance sensors. It can detect changes in force distribution and proximity due to inadvertent foot mispositioning. It can also identify hotspots on the footplate that may lead to pressure ulcers on the foot.

M. Kristi Henzel, head of the research team behind the device, got the idea while treating veterans with spinal cord injury, who often can’t feel, see or easily reposition their feet in a wheelchair.

“Their leg or foot might be sticking out from the side of the footrest. As they would pass through a doorway, for example, it would catch and twist the leg out, leading to injury,” Henzel says. “We think this device will be very beneficial for helping promote power wheelchair safety and overall patient safety because this is a really under-recognized problem.”

Henzel and her team are open to partnering with major wheelchair manufacturers or smaller companies, which would involve licensing out the technology through the VA’s Technology Transfer Program and TechLink, the VA’s tech transfer intermediary.

“This team has made an innovative, significant contribution to VA medical research with this footplate sensor for wheelchairs,” says Gary Bloomer, licensing leader for VA technologies at TechLink. “It has the potential to prevent serious injuries and improve the life of anybody with a neurological deficit who uses a wheelchair.”

Source: TechLink

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