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Offices merge to move research to market

Turning faculty research into products and start-up companies is about to get a significant boost at KU.

Effective July 1, separate technology transfer offices at the Lawrence and Medical Center campuses will combine to form a new KU Center for Technology Commercialization. The goal is to move the results of KU research out into the marketplace, benefiting society while enhancing economic development in Kansas and the region.

Jim Baxendale

"KU has a strong foundation in technology transfer," said Chancellor Robert Hemenway. "Faculty throughout the university – from education and social welfare to pharmaceutical chemistry, medicine and engineering – come up with new ideas and treatments that may have commercial value. It only makes sense to increase our efficiency by combining offices. This also makes it easier for businesses and inventors to work with the university."

If a researcher's invention shows potential, KUCTC will seek appropriate intellectual property protection, says Jim Baxendale, director of the center. This can result in a new company, or it can lead to the licensing of the invention to an existing company. The inventor and the university benefit financially, but that's not the reason KU does it.

"We provide this service because it's part of KU's mission and we want our research to benefit others," Baxendale said. "Economically, it's good for Kansas when local companies start up, expand and prosper because of research coming out of KU."

Seventeen Kansas companies originated with KU research. KU also has 91 licensing agreements with companies that use KU patents. About a third of these are with Kansas companies. The others bring money into Kansas from other states. The royalty revenue generated is used by the university to support research.

Examples of local companies that started with KU research include KC BioMediX, Cadstone, CritiTech, CyDex, eLearning Creations, Flint Hills Scientific and XenoTech. Some of the companies produce medical devices or enhanced drug delivery solutions. Others involve educational materials or computer software.

According to Baxendale, KU has received invention disclosures from nearly 300 different faculty in a wide range of departments. The university holds 150 active U.S. and foreign patents.

"We receive up to 70 new disclosures each year," he said. "All of them are important, but not all of them wind up as products. Even so, this growing level of activity demonstrates the strength of KU research and the entrepreneurial spirit of our faculty."

KUCTC will have a total of six staff, and an office on each campus. A 13-member board — composed of faculty and staff from both campuses and area business leaders — will be chaired by KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere.

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