August 23, 2010 — Using innovations from its labs and classrooms, the University of Utah launched 19 companies during fiscal year 2010, bringing the number of spinoff companies based on university research to 102 since the institution reorganized its technology commercialization efforts in 2005.
Companies formed between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010 once again were based on diverse technologies ranging from optically-guided feeding tubes (Veritract) and potentially lifesaving therapeutics (Brickell Biotech and Kayak Biosciences) to predictive health-care software (Predictive Medical) and lie detection (Credibility Assessment Technologies).
The health-care sector was the dominant focus of the FY10 startups, while other sectors included criminology, financial analysis, clean energy, intellectual property management, microscopy and automotive repair.
The number of startups created at the U in recent years is enough to rank it among the nation’s best research institutions, such as MIT, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins. The accomplishment is even more impressive because the U launches and supports these companies with a fraction of the research funding at these other institutions. Exceptional faculty is what makes the difference, according to university administrators.
“The key to generating startups is faculty inventors,” says Jack Brittain, the University of Utah vice president for Technology Venture Development. “Inventive faculty with a goal of having a significant impact is a key to our success. The number of repeat inventors has increased 49 percent in the past five years, which means we have significantly expanded the number of experienced inventors involved with our efforts.”
However, faculty inventors also require a support network that helps them find the value in their technology and navigate the commercialization process. Several departments serve those important roles on the University of Utah campus. Technology Venture Development is the umbrella organization that coordinates all commercialization efforts. The David Eccles School of Business’s Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center teaches the next generation of entrepreneurs through a variety of student programs. And the Technology Commercialization Office provides intellectual property protection, startup strategy and a wide range of support mechanisms.
“The University of Utah has created an ecosystem that is aligned better than any other I have seen across the country,” says Brian Cummings, director of the university’s Technology Commercialization Office. “It takes venture capital, entrepreneurs, executive talent and sophisticated inventors, working with a common mission.”
Turning an invention into a viable company requires extensive patience and support. It often takes years to build the foundation of a new company, so each of the U’s startups in fiscal 2010 represent years of development and planning that stretch well beyond the initial invention. “Every technology has stumbling blocks, and a company is not possible until the technology is turned into a reliable product that can be produced and distributed to the market,” Brittain says.
The University of Utah Research Foundation has been another essential source of support. It remains committed to funding programs that support startups–a commitment that is critical to developing technologies to the point where a viable company can be launched and given a chance to succeed.
The U’s startups come with many benefits beyond academic respect and national recognition. Most important, they create jobs and generate tax returns for the state through corporate and income taxes, which support state programs, including K-12 and higher education. These benefits make university startups an essential component of economic growth and prosperity for the state.
“The return on our investment in these technologies helps support all higher education programs in the state, scholarship programs for students and gives Utah growth prospects that are the envy of other states,” Brittain says.
University of Utah startups for Fiscal Year 2010
- 7Revolutions – an investment company that is building a unique, public-private partnership to fund, manage and commercialize emerging energy technologies.
- Brickell Biotech – a biotechnology company developing new treatments for skin diseases such as psoriasis and rosacea.
- Credibility Assessment Technologies – a technology company providing lie-detector tests through proprietary eye-tracking software for government agencies and local law enforcement offices.
- F2 Solutions – a health-care company providing improved management solutions for patients with unexplained episodes of fainting or falling.
- Fay Financial Engineering Center - a financial company developing software tools to improve investment portfolio management.
- G6 - a technology company that helps control pain through electromagnetic stimulation of nerves.
- iVeena - an early-stage biotechnology company developing a proprietary drug delivery device for treatment of eye diseases.
- Kayak Biosciences - a pharmaceutical company that provides a new family of potent D-peptide inhibitors to prevent infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
- KickStart - an investment company that assists companies in the Mountain West by aligning technology creators, industry, entrepreneurs and capital sources behind the funding and mentoring of seed investments.
- Predictive Medical - a health-care company that provides a medical interface and surveillance system that uses the most current or real-time patient information to predict adverse clinical events prior to their occurrence in the hopes of reducing patient illness and death.
- RedSpan - a technology company providing software that evaluates inventions and helps connect researchers with investors who might help commercialize their technologies.
- Salt Lake Biosciences – a technology company developing improved testing methods for specialized commercial applications.
- Scintalla - a technology company providing a new generation of microscope that will dominate the field of super-resolution microscopy.
- Seasonal Energy - an energy company providing unique technology for storing seasonal energy underground in the form of ice for an affordable, carbon-free solution to heating and cooling our homes, businesses and communities.
- Sfida Biologic - a pharmaceutical company developing a series of new therapeutic compounds that target motor neurons.
- Short Solutions - a technology company developing proprietary devices that allow automobile manufacturers, dealerships and independent repair shops to quickly and efficiently diagnose and locate intermittent and permanent electrical faults in automobile wiring.
- Solan – an energy company developing efficient solar cells that are based on employing a new class of materials.
- Veritract - a biomedical device company developing nasogastric and nasoenteric feeding tubes with integrated optics, lighting and steering controls, allowing for precision placement of the tube into the digestive tract.
- Versalion Pharmaceutical - a product and technology development company that focuses on finding drug-delivery methods for treating arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.