Published Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:26 pm
commercializing biotech research
World-Herald editorial: UNMC gains momentum

The Chronicle of Higher Education, a journal covering university issues, last year pointed to the University of Nebraska’s success in converting its scientific research into marketable products and services.

NU, the Chronicle reported, in 2011 joined the top programs for the first time, moving to 20th nationally in the amount of licensing revenues from its research. From 2010 to 2011, NU’s licensing revenues jumped from $3.6 million to $16.7 million.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center is contributing notably to NU’s vision on the commercialization front. During 2012, research spending at UNMC exceeded $140 million, and faculty members identified 66 new innovations for market potential.

UNMC’s technology transfer office, UNeMed, last year signed a record 22 license and option agreements, filed 29 U.S. patent applications (a five-year high) and helped launch four new startup companies.

On Monday, UNeMed will showcase seven startup companies whose origins lie in the med center’s research. One of them, ProTransit Nanotherapy, illustrates two effective strategies NU is using.

>> Entrepreneur in residence. NU is placing “entrepreneurs in residence” — professionals with real-world experience in commercializing research findings — at NU campuses, and the entrepreneur in residence for UNeMed, Gary Madsen, provided key expertise to get ProTransit Nanotherapy moving. UNeMed itself, Madsen says, provides valuable help in handling legal and procedural issues and providing industry contacts. Mentoring is playing a growing role in helping NU researchers understand successful commercialization, he notes.

>> Investment funds. ProTransit Nanotherapy is an example of how promising bioscience startups in Nebraska now receive crucial support from an expanding “ecosystem” of private investors and state programs such as Invest Nebraska, says UNeMed CEO Michael Dixon. “We’re seeing more and more deals coming through,” he says. The state’s growing biotech sector “is one of Nebraska’s best-kept secrets,” Dixon told The World-Herald.

As for the future, Dixon says, UNMC aims to rev up more startups, strengthen relations with companies, further develop global connections and boost educational opportunities for graduate students.

Such vision is a healthy sign of growth and progress for NU as well as Nebraska.

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