U-M Tech Transfer Sets Records for Startups, Licenses, Patents, and Disclosures in 2019

The University of Michigan Tech Transfer in Ann Arbor today reported that 22 high-tech companies were started at the school during fiscal year 2019, up from 21 last year.
CubeWorks sensor on finger
Tiny sensors from CubeWorks are an example of technology transferred from University of Michigan laboratories to market. // Photo courtesy of CubeWorks

The University of Michigan Tech Transfer in Ann Arbor today reported that 22 high-tech companies were started at the school during fiscal year 2019, up from 21 last year.

U-M Tech Transfer is the university unit responsible for commercializing research discoveries emanating from the college. U-M has spun off 86 companies in the past five years.

Also during the past fiscal year, the university signed a record 232 license and option agreements with companies seeking to commercialize U-M research, up from 218 in FY2018.

In addition, U-M Tech Transfer reports that 198 U.S. patents were issued in FY2019 for inventions created at U-M, up from 183 last year.

U-M invention disclosures surpassed 500 for the first time, reaching 502 and outpacing the 2018 record of 484. This represents a solid pipeline for potential future patents, licensing agreements and startups, according to Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships at U-M. In the past five years, U-M researchers reported 2,280 inventions.

“This record for invention disclosures shows that our faculty has a strong desire to see their research have a positive impact in the world, and that they find value in the infrastructure that the university has created to support these efforts,” Sexton says.

Sexton adds that the startups launched in 2019 spanned a wide array of sectors, including computer hardware, software, Internet of Things technology, therapeutics, medical devices, health care information technology, materials science, and the university’s first FinTech startup, Equarius Risk Analytics.

“It’s a diverse portfolio of startups that reflects the breadth of excellence within U-M’s research enterprise,” she says. “These startups also help to augment, anchor and in some cases create new industries here in southeast Michigan.”

Many of the 2019 startups operate in and around Ann Arbor and three—CubeWorks, Greenmark Biomedical, and Mekanistic Therapeutics—are housed in Tech Transfer’s Venture Accelerator, which provides lab and office space in the North Campus Research Complex in addition to connections with U-M’s mentor-in-residence program.

U-M Tech Transfer brought in licensing revenues totaling $16.3 million in FY2019, much of which is invested in university research and innovation. That’s an increase of 38 percent over 2018. In FY2019, U-M startups raised more than $505 million in venture and angel investment and raised an additional $138 million from the public markets for a total of $643 million.

“By translating ideas, discoveries, and technologies from the lab to the marketplace, the University of Michigan plays a critical role in addressing the emerging challenges we face in today’s society, while also driving economic growth,” says Rebecca Cunningham, interim vice president for research at U-M.

Notable 2019 startups include:

  • Voxel51, which markets a video understanding platform that analyzes and extracts actionable information from vast amounts of video. The company recently raised $2 million in seed funding from eLab Ventures.
  • DGD Pharmaceuticals, which is developing a therapeutic targeting a particular mutation associated with several cancers.

Voxel51 and DGD Pharmaceuticals will be showcased at Celebrate Invention, an annual event that recognizes entrepreneurship and inventions from U-M researchers. It takes place Oct. 22 at the Michigan League, 911 N. University Ave. More information and a registration forms are available at Celebrate Invention.

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