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AzTE highly ranked in recent annual tech transfer survey


December 06, 2010

Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), the technology venturing arm of Arizona State University, has achieved high marks in an annual report that measures the productivity of university technology transfer offices across the United States.

The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) represents more than 300 universities, research institutions and teaching hospitals in the United States. Member institutions report the outcomes of their technology transfer operations on an annual basis. AUTM’s most recent report covers activities in fiscal year 2008.

According to the report, AzTE scores highly in terms of both inputs (inventions disclosed to AzTE by ASU researchers) and outputs (licensing deals and option agreements). Among U.S. institutions with at least $200 million in research expenditures, AzTE ranked seventh in invention disclosures per $10 million in research. In addition, AzTE ranked sixth for expenditure-adjusted licenses and options. Among the 15 peer institutions designated by the Arizona Board of Regents, ASU through AzTE’s activities ranked first and second in those categories, respectively.

According to Augustine Cheng, AzTE’s managing director, these high rankings are a credit to the entrepreneurial spirit of ASU’s faculty as well as the university’s ongoing commitment to use-inspired research that aligns research priorities with urgent societal needs.

“AzTE supports ASU’s research enterprise by providing an additional, commercial pathway for knowledge dissemination,” said Cheng. “Licensing these inventions helps ensure the cutting edge research performed by our faculty has a real-world impact, whether by improving medical treatments, accelerating new technologies, or creating jobs and economic growth through spinout companies based on ASU research advancements.”

The most striking finding in the report is that AzTE’s tech transfer activities have kept pace with the unprecedented growth in research expenditures ASU has achieved under President Michael Crow and R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., ASU’s senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development. Since July 1, 2002, ASU research awards have grown 136 percent, from $146.9 million in FY02 to $347.4 million in FY10. AzTE’s licensing activities have had to scale rapidly to match that growth.

Although comparative data from AUTM won’t be available for some time, ASU faculty submitted a record 187 invention disclosures in fiscal year 2010. These inventions will provide the technology inventory for the next generation of new deals or startups.

Recent Success Story

AzTE recently finalized a series of licensing deals with EndoStim, Inc., a St. Louis medical device startup, spinning out applications for the groundbreaking neurostimulation technologies developed by Bruce Towe, a Harrington Biomedical Engineering professor in ASU’s School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering.

Towe’s patented technology utilizes ultrasound energy to power microsized stimulators small enough to pass through the lumen of a needle. EndoStim will use this technology to further develop implantable micro-electronic devices to aid in the treatment of acid reflux, urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction through local neurostimulation. These disorders affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“The patented technology licensed from AzTE will significantly advance our commercial development of highly miniaturized neurostimulators that can be delivered with a minimally invasive procedure in an outpatient setting,” said Bevil Hogg, EndoStim’s President and CEO.

ASU’s neurostimulation technology was an important factor in EndoStim’s raising more than $6 million in Series B equity financing this year. The company plans to use the funding to continue clinical trials overseas and pursue FDA approval for use of the neurostimulator for these disorders.

Assistance for Entrepreneurial Faculty

In October, AzTE partnered with the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development to launch Venture Catalyst at ASU, with the help of a $1 million grant from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's office. The entrepreneurial assistance initiative is designed to help faculty, students and ASU-linked companies launch new startups or accelerate existing ventures.

“We formed Venture Catalyst because we don’t want to see busy ASU innovators getting bogged down with formational considerations like how to start a company or find financing sources,” said Cheng. “Every service we offer is customized to the specific needs of the faculty or student entrepreneur.”