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Faculty members feted for discoveries resulting in patents

by David Bauman - April 7, 2008

The University recently recognized 14 faculty members for their contributions in the area of research with potential for product development and commercialization, during the sixth annual President’s patent awards dinner at the Alumni Center.

The dinner, co-hosted by President Michael J. Hogan and the Office of Technology Commercialization, recognizes an inventor, or team of inventors, for discoveries that have resulted in issued U.S. patents. In 2007, the University of Connecticut received 26 patents based on the work of faculty researchers.

“Growing research is a key element in moving this University into the top tier,” said Hogan.

“To do so, we need to build on the success that we’ve already established. Our award recipients tonight are the manifestation of that success.”

The 26 patents issued to UConn in 2007 bring to 267 the total number of patents the University has received, said Mike Newborg, executive director of the Center for Science and Technology Commercialization, the University’s patent and licensing office, which also works to help move inventions into the marketplace.

Of that total, more than half – 152 patents – have been issued since the year 2000, he says.

“Having patents is fine, but we get them so we can license them,” Newborg added.

“Of these 26 patents, 19 have already been licensed to nine different companies; and of these nine companies, four are UConn or UConn R&D start-ups and two of those are located at business incubators operated by the UConn Technology Incubation Program.”

Newborg also noted that since fiscal year 2003, UConn’s licensing efforts have earned the University $5.5 million in gross licensing revenue, of which $1.6 million was distributed to the inventors and another $1.3 million was returned to the schools and colleges to support additional research.

The faculty inventors who attended the awards dinner were:

Jon Goldberg, a materials scientist in the School of Dental Medicine. Goldberg was recognized for developing an opaque polymer that can replace metal wires used in braces.

The technology arising from his discovery has been licensed to a UConn R&D Corp. company, New Ortho Polymers.

Michael Pikal, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences and an expert in the freeze drying process, was recognized for leading a team that discovered a way to make a specialized clotting component used to treat bleeding disorders.

The technology was patented and the Center for Science and Technology Commercialization sold UConn’s future revenues from licensing the technology for $1 million to a company – Drug Royalty – that buys revenue streams.

The University’s portion of the sale was used to establish a fund to support ongoing prototype development of selected technologies.

Mark Brand, a horticulturalist, was recognized for an ornamental grass he developed and propagated in the greenhouses and fields of the Department of Plant Science. Ruby Ribbons, a new variety of switch grass, has been patented and licensed to two separate ornamental breeder plant companies for wholesale production.

Paul Campagnola, a cell biologist at the Health Center and Amy Howell, a professor of chemistry, are co-inventors of a new class of molecule that can cross-link naturally occurring materials such as proteins, lipids, and nucleic acid upon exposure to light.

These photo-activators can be used to create two-dimensional matrices or three-dimensional scaffolds out of these natural materials, structures that hold promise in tissue repair therapy and wound healing.

Alexandros Makriyannis, an emeritus professor and prolific inventor, received six patents for various classes of compounds with potential to treat chronic pain and obesity.

Although he is now at a Boston-based university with a large group under his direction continuing to work on these patented compounds, Makriyannis also maintains a lab at UConn.

Makriyannis’s compounds are licensed to a UConn start-up company, MakScientific. Some of the licensed compounds are currently being evaluated by a major pharmaceutical company for possible sublicensing.

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