Pioneering research in both biotechnology and imaging enabled the University of Rochester to double the amount of revenue its basic research earned this year. The advance, to $29.5 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2001, is more than double the $13.5 million that companies paid last year and 10 times the $2.9 million in royalties from the previous year.
The dramatic growth comes at a time of increased emphasis on commercialization of the University's intellectual property. In the last two years, the University has spun off four new companies, including RTek Medical Systems LLC, which is commercializing a new prostate cancer treatment system; Socratech LLC, which is looking at new ways to treat Alzheimer's disease; Vaccinex, which is developing cancer vaccines; and VirtualScopics LLC, which is developing new ways to mine important data from CT and MRI imaging systems.
The newcomers join an array of established University spin-offs that include Rochester Photonics (now a subsidiary of Corning Inc.), a company that develops opto-electronic components and systems, and Praxis Biologics, founded to develop vaccine technology. (Praxis is now known as Wyeth Lederle Vaccines, a unit of American Home Products, which announced plans last week to move the unit out of Rochester.) In all, more than two dozen high-tech companies have risen from the University's basic research in the past two decades.
"There is a marked increase in companies calling us about our technologies, as well as interest from venture capital firms," says Mark Coburn, associate provost and director of technology transfer. "Rochester is really getting on the map for technology transfer. Success breeds success."
Major technologies under license include:
A new vaccine technology that has brought about two widely used vaccines, Prevnar‚ and HibTITER‚. The technology was developed by researchers David Smith, Porter Anderson and Richard Insel. Prevnar‚ was approved last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is the first vaccine to help prevent pneumococcal disease, which can cause bacterial meningitis and invasive blood infections, in infants and toddlers. Previously, HibTITER‚ virtually wiped out Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib), which was once one of the chief causes of childhood bacterial infections, including meningitis. Since approval of the vaccine by the FDA in 1990, the number of children infected has been reduced by about 98 percent. Both vaccines are made and sold by Wyeth-Ayerst, a division of American Home Products.
The "Blue Noise Mask," a halftoning technology developed by engineers Kevin Parker and Theophano Mitsa. More than a dozen companies have licensed the technology, which is widely used in the graphic arts and printing industry and in hundreds of thousands of printers and fax machines around the world. Earlier this year the technology was licensed to Seiko-Epson Corp.; other licensees include Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's largest maker of printers. The Blue Noise Mask makes possible the rapid creation of high-quality halftones - at the time of the invention about a decade ago, the Blue Noise Mask derived halftones about 45 times faster than the leading technology. The project has its roots in an effort to improve the printing of ultrasound images.
Income from such licenses is divided between the University and the inventors, with much of the funding plowed back into research and education.