The University of Michigan’s efforts to advance entrepreneurial activity and commercialize research accelerated to an unprecedented level in fiscal year 2019.
U-M Tech Transfer reported that 22 startups were launched at the university, surpassing last year’s record of 21. U-M has spun off 86 companies in the past five years.
19th annual Celebrate Invention
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the university signed a record 232 license and option agreements with companies seeking to commercialize U-M research, up from 218 in FY ’18.
Tech Transfer also reported that 198 U.S. patents were issued in 2019 for inventions created at U-M, up from 183 last year.
In addition, 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, said Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships. In the past five years, U-M researchers reported 2,280 inventions.
“This record for invention disclosures shows that our faculty have 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 said.
Sexton said 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 said. “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.
Tech Transfer brought in licensing revenues totaling $16.3 million in FY ’19, much of which are invested in university research and innovation. That’s an increase of 38 percent over 2018. In FY ’19, 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,” said Rebecca Cunningham, interim vice president for research.
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.
At the event, the 2019 Distinguished University Innovator Award will be presented to David Blaauw and Dennis Sylvester, professors of electrical engineering and computer science.