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Annual Technology Commercialization Data Shows Steady Momentum

Employees work in a clean room at Blackrock Microsystems, one of the most recent startup companies to come out of the University of Utah.

Aug. 29, 2011 — It’s one thing to take the top spot from MIT in creating startup companies from university research, but it’s quite another to maintain a steady commercialization program. Data released today by the University of Utah (the U) shows continued progress in commercializing technologies from July 2010 to July 2011. Highlights of the findings include the creation of 23 companies, 233 invention disclosures, 81 license agreements and engaging over 2,400 students.

The U’s Technology Venture Development office, also known as Tech Ventures, collected the data. Tech Ventures facilitates all commercialization activities on campus, from managing patent applications and technology licenses to community outreach and student entrepreneurship programs.

“We are pleased with what we accomplished last year,” says Jack Brittain, vice president for technology venture development at the U. “The university benefits from these accomplishments, but the real winner is the state of Utah. All of our activities help drive economic development in the state, and the students in our programs are Utah’s future business and technology leaders.”

One of the most important measurements tracked is the number of startup companies launched from university research each year. The companies do the work necessary to turn inventions into commercially viable products, and since most of them are based in Utah, each startup has the potential to drive economic development in the state.

The amount of startups (23) launched during fiscal year 2011 ties the university’s record over a one-year period. In fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the university also had 23 startups. The University of Utah has spun off 132 startups since 2005 – when it boosted support for commercialization – and the average since then is 19 per year. Most startups are based on technologies developed in the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine, but most departments are involved with commercialization.

“Commercialization is difficult,” Brittain says. “It starts with the innovative ideas and inventions of faculty and students, which we put through a rigorous process of evaluation and testing. But it’s the level of talent at the University of Utah and our culture of innovation that make everything possible.”

Here are the other highlights from the last fiscal year:

  • The University of Utah collected 233 invention disclosures in fiscal year 2011, compared to 205 in 2010. An invention disclosure occurs when a faculty member submits a form to university administrators announcing he or she has invented a novel device or process.
  • 55 new inventors and 120 repeat inventors were logged during fiscal year 2011, compared to 32 and 122, respectively, in 2010. An “inventor” is defined as someone who files an invention disclosure.
  • 81 technology license agreements were signed in fiscal year 2011, compared to 68 in 2010. Generally, a license is signed when a company wants to use or sell a technology developed on campus.
  • 74 commercially sponsored license agreements were facilitated in fiscal year 2011, compared to 81 in 2010. These agreements represent research partnerships between companies and faculty members.
  • 2,446 students were enrolled in programs related to commercialization, innovation or entrepreneurship in fiscal year 2011, compared to 909 in 2010. The most popular student programs are the business competitions provided by the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center.

“We drive economic development and are working hard to engage all stakeholders to translate early stage technology into successful products,” says Zach Miles, the interim director of the Technology Commercialization Office, which is part of the Technology Venture Development office and manages all intellectual property on campus. “We want to add value along the entire commercialization pathway, and we’re doing a lot of creative things to support our stakeholders’ efforts.”

Learn more about technology commercialization at the University of Utah at

FY 2011 startup companies

  • AvanSci Bio – Developing automated laboratory systems, focusing on the micro-dissection of slide-mounted tissue specimens.
  • Axon Optics – Developing a coating that blocks light known to trigger migraines and does not have the drawbacks of current technologies.
  • Beijing Great Sun Biotech – Helping improve drug delivery technology for cancer chemotherapy. 
  • CB Bioenergy – Using combinations of microbes and nutrients to produce methane gas from depleted coal-bed methane seams, depleted oil reservoirs, oil shale and other carbon sources that are non-recoverable due to costs or environmental factors.
  • Cell Reader – Offering a novel assay method and device for accurate and faster cancer cell screening.
  • CoNextions – Developing a novel, sutureless device for lacerated tendon repair. One of the initial applications of the device will be lacerated flexor tendon repair.
  • Domain Surgical – Developing a novel surgical cutting tool that uses ferromagnetic technology for cutting tissues.
  • E-Sens – Developing a multi-use microsensor array technology for monitoring the parameters needed to manage both chlorine- and chloramine-disinfected water systems.
  • Espira – Using a process called the digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to analyze DNA molecules, which could help improve detection of cancerous tumors from a simple blood, urine, sputum or stool sample.
  • Elute – Developing antibodies or anti-infective agents for use when grafting bones during implants or orthopedic surgery.
  • Granite Mountain Technologies – Commercializing a digital logic technology that can significantly improve power and performance of integrated circuits commonly found in electronic devices.
  • HOT Water Global – Developing a new ozonation technique coupled with sand filtration to quickly remove oil from process water and prevent oil sheen.
  • Innoception Technologies – Developing software, hardware and support services to quantify and diagnose physical and psychiatric problems caused by chronic stress (such as fibromyalgia, sleep disorders and chronic pain).
  • Insurgen – Developing a type of fused stem cell to treat diabetes.
  • Knudra – Using a proprietary technology to offer faster drug screening services that require fewer expensive drug compounds with more accurate drug affinity interaction results.
  • MacCure – Focusing on the detection and treatment of small vessel disease in human subjects – specifically, diseases related to the diagnosis and treatment of small vessel disease in the choroid of a human eye such as macular degeneration. 
  • Perfect Vision – Producing devices that prevent bacteria and other contaminants from entering the eye during intravitreal therapeutic administration.
  • Seismic Option Safety (SOS) Systems – Developing a system to allow trapped miners to contact the surface and provide their location.
  • TransViragen – Providing genetically-modified mouse and lab models used in labs, from custom model generation to phenotyping, for research in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, academic and government sectors.
  • Telome Health – Developing assays of telomere length and other diagnostic tests for physicians, individuals and companies. A telomere is a section of repeated DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome, and their length has been linked to people’s health.
  • US Bioremediation – Developing a novel biological method to extract or neutralize toxic metals in acidic environments. Applications include environmental cleanup and recovery of trace metals with economic value.
  • Xandem – Developing a powerful, innovative and cost-effective technology that can detect and track people through walls.
  • Xend – A novel intraocular lens that corrects a patient’s astigmatism and pseudophakic dysphotopsia (unwanted light images).