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November 9, 2006

Pitt's tech transfer revenue doubles

Pitt’s total revenue from intellectual property transfers more than doubled in fiscal year 2006, rising to nearly $11.9 million from almost $5.7 million last year, according to the Office of Technology Management’s annual report.

Driving those numbers was the August 2005 buyout of Stentor, Inc., a licensee of Pitt image distribution and storage technology, for $280 million by Royal Philips Electronics.

Stentor, founded in 1998, centered on PACS (picture archiving and communication systems) technology developed by Pitt radiology professor Paul Chang to store and distribute digital radiology images in hospitals.

The buyout yielded about $10 million on the University’s $1 million investment (a combination of equity through the licensing transaction and direct investment). UPMC also reaped returns on the sale, realizing more than $45 million on its investment of $9 million.

But, more important, said Marc Malandro, associate vice chancellor for technology management and commercialization, is the increase in invention disclosures.

The first step in protecting potentially patentable new discoveries is an invention disclosure; those increased to 165 in FY06, up 17 percent over last year’s 141 disclosures and nearly double 2001’s 85 disclosures.

The majority of disclosure submissions came from faculty, staff and students in the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine, although some came from the Graduate School of Public Health, the School of Arts and Sciences, pharmacy, dental medicine, nursing, health and rehabilitation sciences, education and information sciences.

Continuing to add to those disclosure figures is OTM’s goal, Malandro said, “to increase the number of good ideas coming into the pipeline.”

To help that happen, OTM has ramped up communication with researchers on campus, adding workshops, seminars and courses aimed at making faculty familiar with all that’s involved in moving their research to market.

“It’s another way of getting your information disseminated,” Malandro said, adding that the people with the ideas need to partner with businesses if useful products are to come from the work being generated at the University.

“What we would like to see is a shelf full of products developed with Pitt technology,” he said.

But that takes time — perhaps as long as a decade for life sciences innovations that require government approvals; about two to five years for those not related to life sciences.

Next year’s annual report may include several health science and biomedical developments that have been in the works for some time, including ones instrumental for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, he said.

According to this year’s report, the number of licenses or options executed on innovations developed at Pitt remained relatively level, falling from 58 in FY05 to 54 in FY06, but well above the 20 deals executed in 2001. And 22 patents were issued for Pitt-developed intellectual property, up from 20 in FY05.

All told, 174 patents have been issued since 2001 for Pitt innovations.

The figures are the result of long-ago efforts. “The patents we file now aren’t likely to be issued for about five years,” Malandro said. “It is a long time. In this business you have to build and plan for the long term.”

Not included in the report’s list of a half-dozen start-up companies launched last year with licensed Pitt technology are a pair of start-ups that came from Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University collaborations. (Joint developments are reported by only one institution so as not to double-report figures.) Those collaborations are expected to snowball as more joint Pitt-CMU centers such as the Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, established earlier this year, are formed. “Any time you cooperate at the research level, there’s a natural flowdown” of marketable developments, Malandro said.

The six start-ups based on Pitt research developments are:

• Cohera Medical, Inc., which is pursuing FDA approvals and markets for a line of tissue adhesives developed by chemical engineering professor Eric Beckman and former dental medicine professor Michael Buckley. The company received nearly $6.8 million in funding from investors in FY06.

• StageMark, Inc., which is using technology developed by associate professors of medicine Susan Manzi and Joseph Ahearn to diagnose lupus.

• NanoLambda, Inc., which is using nano-optic filter array technology developed by Petersen Institute of Nanoscience and Engineering co-director Hong Koo Kim to create faster telecommunications devices.

• Knopp Neurosciences, Inc., which couples a diagnostic test for Lou Gehrig’s disease developed at Pitt with a treatment developed at the University of Virginia.

• Pax Vax, Inc., which utilizes Pitt’s new avian flu vaccine developed by assistant professor of surgery Andrea Gambotto and colleagues.

• Lipella Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which uses lipid-based compositions to deliver drugs for the treatment of cancer, bladder inflammation and infections. The technology was developed by a group of researchers including former pharmaceutical science professor Leaf Huang, now at the University of North Carolina.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 6

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