Oncological Sciences Center

From discovery to delivery: Purdue, alumni establish fund to help entrepreneurs move university disc

February 1, 2009

Purdue University leads the Big Ten in moving its discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace, and with a new program and support of Purdue alumni, it stands to do even better.

"Not only is Purdue first in the Big Ten for filing patents and starting new companies, but we are third in the nation behind the University of California and the University of Utah for our respective technology transfer statistics" said Joseph B. Hornett, senior vice president, treasurer and COO of the Purdue Research Foundation, which oversees Purdue's Office of Technology Commercialization. "In 2007, Purdue had 10 startup companies based on Purdue University technologies. In 2006, we had 14 startup companies from discoveries made at Purdue.

"But we are always looking for ways to increase our technology transfer opportunities."

The Emerging Innovations Fund, a new philanthropic initiative, will provide financial support for startup companies to expedite the process of moving research discoveries to commercial delivery.

The fund will provide commercialization funding support for early-stage technology through small, finite grants. The fund will be supported by Purdue alumni and other private donors. Initial capitalization is $1.5 million, expected to grow to $5 million.

Julie Goonewardene (MGT '81), director of business development for the Purdue Research Foundation and Discovery Park, is working with Mary Jo Bartolacci, senior director of philanthropy for the Purdue Research Foundation and Discovery Park, to develop the program. Once it is established, Goonewardene will be responsible for the day-to-day operations.

Michael J. Birck (ECE '60, HD '95), a Purdue trustee and chairman of Tellabs Inc. in Naperville, Ill., and Jeffrey D. Warren (BA '78), a Boston-based attorney and venture capital investor, will serve on the fund's advisory board.

"The days of 'pure science,' or purely scientific discoveries, are essentially over.  Universities around the nation are focusing interest and support for their discoveries primarily on practical applications of technology and on technology transfer," Birck said.  "The Emerging Innovation Fund will keep Purdue among the leaders in helping discoveries become marketable products."

The program is a collaboration between the Purdue Research Foundation and Purdue University. The foundation manages the Purdue Research Park, which is the largest university-affiliated business incubation complex in the country.

"The Emerging Innovation Fund supports our integrated approach to research," said Alan H. Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park and associate vice president of research. "We expect to make five to seven grants annually in the range of $20,000 to $200,000."

Recipients must meet the successful completion of agreed-upon milestones. Purdue faculty, staff, students and Purdue Research Park-based companies, including all Indiana incubator and satellite campuses, are eligible to apply to the program.

The money may be used for:

* Intellectual property enhancement.

* Prototype development and testing.

* Market research and commercial assessment.

* Feasibility studies for production.

* Determination of regulatory, reimbursement pathways.

* Preliminary business plans.

The program is designed to be financially self-sustaining by ensuring the money will be invested in technology equities. Startup companies benefiting from the fund will provide a payback into the program as part of the technology commercialization process.

The Emerging Innovations Fund will support the technology transfer of discoveries from researchers such as Daniel Raftery, a Purdue College of Science professor of analytical and physical chemistry. Raftery, who is a researcher at the Oncological Sciences Center in Purdue's Discovery Park, founded the Purdue Research Park-based company Matrix Bio LLC in the last fiscal year.

The company is based on a Purdue-licensed technology to improve early cancer diagnosis that is being developed by MatrixBio LLC. The company received seed funding from the Main Street Venture Fund, based in Fort Wayne, Ind.

"Receiving support like I did from Main Street helps us and provides our companies with financial support, and the additional support from the Purdue Research Park provides us with the expertise we need to patent and license our products," Raftery said. "The Emerging Innovations Fund will provide an additional avenue for researchers to commercialize their discoveries."

Joe Bockerstette of Main Street said the investors in the group planned to invest in the Emerging Innovations Fund.


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