Passing Five Year Milestone, UA Breaks Commercialization Records Again, Looks Ahead to New Phase

July 27, 2018

Tucson, Ariz. – For fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018), the University of Arizona reports once again meeting or surpassing performance expectations for its key annual measures in technology commercialization. The results demonstrate how the UA’s Tech Launch Arizona is continuing to deliver on its mission: to significantly enhance the impact of UA research, intellectual property (IP) and technological innovation by bringing the University’s inventions to the public for economic and social benefit.

TLA officially was launched in FY2013, with FY2014 marking its first year as a fully-staffed and operating UA unit. Now passing the milestone of reporting five years of results, TLA has again demonstrated increases across the board:

  • 275 invention disclosures, up from 144 in FY 2013 before TLA was fully operational.
  • 349 UA patents filed, up from 145 in FY 2013.*
  • 112 total executed licenses and options, up from 48 in FY 2013.
  • 16 startup licensee companies formed, up from 3 in FY 2013.

The office has strategically led the UA innovation ecosystem – including faculty, researchers, graduate students, alumni and community experts – to transform the University into a top performing public university in terms of technology commercialization.

“In 2018, TLA continued its strong record of commercializing vital new inventions," UA President Robert C. Robbins said, "and it is an important reason why the UA is well on our way to realizing our vision of becoming a leading university in the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

Sixteen Startups

The 16 startups – new companies based on IP generated from UA research – formed this past year to bring UA inventions to the public include:

  • Reglagene, applying quadruplex master switch technology to discover new medicines that control gene expression to address diseases like cancer, invented at the College of Pharmacy and the BIO5 Institute(link is external).
  • Omniscient, developing a novel dual-view imaging technology that captures simultaneous forward and 360-degree backwards views in a single image for applications in medicine and other industries, invented at the College of Medicine – Tucson, and the College of Optical Sciences.
  • Regulonix, developing non-opioid-based small molecule inhibitors for chronic pain reduction, invented at the College of Medicine - Tucson and the BIO5 Institute.
  • Urbix Resources, bringing to market technologies including an environmentally friendly low-temperature graphite purification technique, a new electrode architecture, an electrolyte, and a graphene exfoliation reactor, invented at the College of Optical Sciences.
  • FreeFall Aerospace, developing new technologies for spacecraft communications and observational capabilities, with inventions from the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory.
  • Botanisol Analytics, commercializing molecular detection instrumentation for use in forensic, pharmaceutical agricultural, manufacturing, threat detection, bioproduction and clinical diagnostic applications, invented at the College of Optical Sciences.
  • Aqualung Therapeutics Corporation, developing an anti-NAMPT therapeutic antibody to treat ventilator-induced lung injury, invented at the College of Medicine - Tucson, the BIO5 Institute and the UA Cancer Center.
  • Triangle Biotechnology, Inc., developing a nanodroplet technology with applications in medical imaging, diagnostics and clinical therapy, invented at the College of Medicine - Tucson.
  • Guia, commercializing the System for Managing Advanced Response Technology (SMART™) to monitor worker health in the context of the work environment, invented at the College of Engineering and the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.
  • D3Sciences, Inc., developing tools for improved tissue sampling to expand cancer diagnosis, therapy specificity and research, co-invented at the College of Medicine - Tucson, and Banner – University Medical Center Tucson(link is external).
  • Iluminos Therapeutics, creating small molecule approaches for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative and cognitive diseases, invented at the College of Pharmacy and the BIO5 Institute.
  • MCR Therapeutics, developing therapeutics for skin cancer and the treatment of pigmentary disorders, invented in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (associated with the Colleges of Science and Medicine – Tucson) and the BIO5 Institute and the UA Cancer Center.
  • Discern Science International, Inc., offering an automated interviewing and deception detection technology for use in security, invented at the Eller College of Management.
  • Intuitive Measurement Systems, offering a portable device to automate and standardize the collection of respiratory rates in sedated laboratory animals, invented at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
  • NorCon Technologies, commercializing techniques and elements for flexible curved reflectors, invented at the College of Optical Sciences.
  • GenetiRate, developing an application of an assay to measure metabolic rate to predict growth rate in aquatic plant and animal species, offering prediction capabilities without the need for specialized equipment, invented at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Impact through NSF I-Corps

As an NSF I-Corps Site, TLA offers university-related entrepreneurial teams looking to bring innovative technologies to market individual project grants up to $3,000, with those funds going towards customer discovery. Teams typically consist of an inventor/academic lead, an entrepreneurial lead, and a business mentor. In FY2018, 39 teams went through the program bringing the total to 84 teams served since the NSF designated TLA as an I-Corps Site in January 2016. Of the 16 startup teams above, nine went through the I-Corps program, receiving additional support from mentors and other teams as they made their decisions to go forward.

TLA is now accepting applications for its Fall 2018 cohort, which begins September 12. Applications are due on August 27 and TLA invites interested parties to learn more and apply.

Looking Forward

Along with continuing to break records, this year marks a number of transition points for the office. David Allen, PhD, who was hired in 2012 to strategize and build TLA, retired this past April. Douglas Hockstad, who Allen hired from the University of Michigan to run the technology licensing operation, is now leading the office as assistant vice president.

When he arrived, Allen took TLA through a strategic planning process that resulted in a Roadmap to chart its five-year course. Hockstad is reinitiating that work anew with his leadership team.

“Startups generally focus their first five years on rapid growth, and then must transition to their next phase and strategize what their next steps are,” he says. “We’re going through that strategic planning process now.”

TLA will release its full annual report for FY2018 in the fall.

* Total patents metric was updated on 9/5/18.