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Faculty research fuels record 15 startups at University of Minnesota

August 13, 2014

The University of Minnesota announced today that it launched a record 15 startup companies based on discoveries and inventions by its researchers during the past year. These companies, which top the previous record of 14 companies in fiscal 2013, demonstrate the university’s commitment to bringing revolutionary discoveries to the market in key industries including medical technology and the environment.

The university’s Venture Center, part of the Office for Technology Commercialization, matches intellectual property resulting from university research with experienced CEOs to provide a platform for that research to reach the public. Since forming in 2006, the Venture Center has worked with an extensive network of proven entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists to create a total of 67 startup companies.

“Our talented faculty are constantly developing innovative ways for us to live safer, smarter and healthier lives,” said Dr. Brian Herman, the U’s vice president for research. “Bringing these ideas to market advances Minnesota’s economy and its ecosystem of entrepreneurship by creating the basis for new industries and strengthening the state’s competitiveness in existing ones. I am excited to see university research translate into solutions to real-world problems.”

The startups stemmed from the work of faculty inventors like Dr. Allison Hubel, a mechanical engineering professor who developed the technology behind Minneapolis-based Meso-Flow. The company offers a disposable device for cleaning and storing blood cells used in transplants and other medical procedures. The new process is safer for the patient and less expensive than previous methods, and allows for blood to be stored for a much greater period of time, which could help address blood supply shortages.

Two of the companies feature technology by electrical and computer engineering professor Dr. Jian-Ping Wang. St. Paul-based Zepto Life Technology centers on a portable, low-cost device Wang designed to quickly check a human sample for traces of more than 60 diseases or conditions ranging from malaria to cancer. Niron Magnetics, in Palo Alto, Calif., uses technology Wang developed for fabricating a powerful new type of permanent magnet. Niron will produce this magnet as an environmentally friendly replacement for the expensive rare earth materials now used in motors, generators and wind turbines.

As a public research institution, the University of Minnesota fosters a collaborative environment that encourages faculty to pursue knowledge and make discoveries. Russ Straate, associate director of the Venture Center, said startup companies complement the university’s goals by introducing new breakthroughs to the market, where they can best benefit society.

“Universities are not fixated on the bottom line, but driven by a larger purpose to find solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges,” Straate said. “Startup companies help get these solutions out the door by turning research into a relevant and useful product with wide-reaching implications and market opportunities.”

Creating startup companies is one way the university transfers its intellectual property to the market. The U also licenses technology to existing companies and allows companies to sponsor new research through the Minnesota Innovation Partnerships (MN-IP) program. MN-IP gives companies sponsoring research an exclusive license to the technology that results. The program also allows companies to take university inventions for a “test drive” to gauge their market potential before choosing to license.

The 15 new startup companies include:

  • ADC BioMed Corporation
  • Bennett Autogas Systems
  • CURx Pharmaceuticals
  • CVC Heartsavers
  • Efficient Windows Collaborative
  • InformeDesign
  • Meso-Flow
  • Minnepura
  • MinnScan
  • NH3 Strategies
  • Niron Magnetics
  • Surgical Information Sciences
  • Treatment Global
  • Vigilant Diagnostics
  • Zepto Life Technology

For more information about startup companies based on university technology, see this infographic and visit z.umn.edu/umnstartups.

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