For the fourth consecutive year at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, technology transfer and commercialization officials from leading research universities and medical centers hosted a fast-paced, hour-long presentation of the research opportunities, spending and sector focus at their respective institutions. They also showcased early stage projects emerging from their medical and engineering test labs along with high-potential spinouts working to commercialize cutting-edge technologies developed by faculty, staff and students.
The May 17 panel featured tech transfer and commercialization reports from six institutions: the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech University, Wayne State University, the University of Louisville and the Cleveland Clinic.
The MGCS is the first step for many spinout companies that are making pitches to angels and venture capitalists to raise funding and to gain exposure to the venture investment community, not just locally, but across the Midwest and on the coasts, according to Mike Psarouthakis, the U-M Venture Center’s new director. The symposium also offers a rich networking venue for company founders and CEOs, as well as tech transfer officials, who continually seek to add new investors to their pipelines and update them about exciting research projects and emerging companies at their respective institutions.
In 2016, U-M Tech Transfer received 428 invention disclosures, signed 173 license agreements, issued 135 patents and launched 12 startups. Approximately 90 percent of the licensing agreements for U-M technologies are signed by large companies, such as General Motors Company and Dow Chemical. The remaining 10 percent go down the startup pathway and end up at the Venture Center.
Historically, more licensing opportunities and startups have emerged from the life sciences at U-M, but that pattern is evolving, according to Psarouthakis. Software is gaining traction and will have a bigger impact in the future. Startups also are emerging from many schools and colleges on campus that previously had not been considered epicenters of entrepreneurship.
Psarouthakis, who succeeded Jack Miner as Venture Center director, offered a quick preview of four emerging U-M companies that are pushing exciting research discoveries through the commercialization pipeline:
- Ripple Inc. is helping researchers improve the recruitment and management of participants for clinical, translational and social science studies through its innovative web-based management software and active participant registry.
- WiEnTra is developing technology that improves the performance of existing wireless power transfer systems used for charging devices and batteries by expanding the charging zone without compromising efficiency or charging time.
- Ecovia Renewables Inc. is commercializing a new generation of non-toxic, high-performance, bio-based alternatives to replace the nonrenewable petrochemical materials currently used in many personal-care products, such as cosmetics, skin-care lotions and disposable diapers.
- EVOQ Therapeutics LLC is developing synthetic HDL nanodiscs to optimize the delivery of cancer vaccines in the human body.