The University of Arizona’s department of chemistry and biochemistry has long been a research powerhouse and is now a leading producer of intellectual property.
Before the creation of Tech Launch Arizona in 2012, the College of Science disclosed about two dozen inventions annually.
Last year, the 45 faculty members in the department of chemistry and biochemistry produced 35 of the 213 disclosures Tech Launch Arizona received, of which 28 became or are related to full-fledged patent applications — and they’re spinning out one startup company per year.
“It’s the mindset of the entrepreneurial faculty member that moves things toward commercialization,” says Roger Miesfeld, head of the department.
The department’s faculty have historically participated in commercialization, and a number of the department’s inventions have had significant impact.
Companies such as Selectide (predecessor to the Sanofi unit in Oro Valley) and GlycoSurf are prime examples of companies created from department research.
Tech Launch Arizona provides resources to protect inventions by seeking patent protection.That intellectual property is then licensed to existing companies or startups, and the inventors, their laboratories and other UA units receive a small percentage of product sales (royalties) in exchange for the benefits derived from the patent.
“Tech Launch Arizona has streamlined the whole process, and now that natural entrepreneurial spirit of chemists and biochemists can be manifested at the University of Arizona,” Miesfeld says.
Miesfeld decided to try the process himself. “We had a compound that when put into female mosquitoes diverted blood into her crop (where nectar is usually stored) instead of her stomach and she died, We said, ‘That’s a really weird drug, and it does something we’ve never seen before.”
Two years on, Tech Launch has helped to patent the molecule, and the UA is in negotiations with a multinational company to license the intellectual property.