UA Breaks Technology Commercialization Records

After passing its five-year milestone, Tech Launch Arizona looks ahead to new phase of growth and development.

By:
Paul Tumarkin — Tech Launch Arizona, Jacob Chinn photo
The Mall at sunset

The University of Arizona has once again met or surpassed performance expectations for its key annual measures in technology commercialization during the 2018 fiscal year. The results demonstrate how the UA's Tech Launch Arizona, or TLA, is continuing to to significantly enhance the impact of UA research, intellectual property and technological innovation by bringing the university's inventions to the public for economic and social benefit.

"In 2018, TLA continued its strong record of commercializing vital new inventions, 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," said UA President Robert C. Robbins.

TLA was officially launched in FY2013, with FY2014 marking its first year as a fully staffed UA unit. Over the past five years, TLA has demonstrated increases across the board. This year is no exception.

In 2018, TLA posted:

  • 275 invention disclosures, up from 144 in FY2013, before TLA was fully operational.
  • 352 UA patents filed, up from 145 in FY2013.
  • 112 total executed licenses and options, up from 48 in FY2013.
  • 16 startup licensee companies formed, up from three in FY2013.

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

Sixteen Startups

The 16 startups — new companies based on intellectual property generated from UA research — formed duting FY2018 to bring UA inventions to the public include:

  • Reglagene applies quadruplex master switch technology to discover new medicines that control gene expression to address diseases like cancer and was invented at the UA College of Pharmacy and BIO5 Institute.
  • Omniscient, which is 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, was invented at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson and College of Optical Sciences
  • Regulonix, which is developing non-opioid-based small molecule inhibitors for chronic pain reduction, was invented at the College of Medicine – Tucson and the BIO5 Institute.
  • Urbix Resources, which is bringing to market technologies including an environmentally friendly low-temperature graphite purification technique, a new electrode architecture, an electrolyte and a graphene exfoliation reactor, was invented at the College of Optical Sciences.
  • FreeFall Aerospace is developing new technologies for spacecraft communications and observational capabilities with inventions from the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory.
  • Botanisol Analytics, which is commercializing molecular detection instrumentation for use in forensic, pharmaceutical agricultural, manufacturing, threat detection, bioproduction and clinical diagnostic applications, was invented at the College of Optical Sciences.
  • Aqualung Therapeutics Corporation, which is developing an anti-NAMPT therapeutic antibody to treat ventilator-induced lung injury, was invented at the College of Medicine – Tucson, BIO5 Institute and UA Cancer Center.
  • Triangle Biotechnology Inc., which is developing a nanodroplet technology with applications in medical imaging, diagnostics and clinical therapy, was 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, was invented at the College of Engineering and Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.
  • D3Sciences Inc., which is developing tools for improved tissue sampling to expand cancer diagnosis, therapy specificity and research, was co-invented at the College of Medicine – Tucson and Banner – University Medical Center Tucson.
  • Iluminos Therapeutics, which is creating small molecule approaches for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative and cognitive diseases, was invented at the College of Pharmacy and BIO5 Institute.
  • MCR Therapeutics, which is developing therapeutics for skin cancer and the treatment of pigmentary disorders, was invented in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (associated with the College of Science and College of Medicine – Tucson), BIO5 Institute and UA Cancer Center.
  • Discern Science International Inc., which offers an automated interviewing and deception detection technology for use in security, was 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, was invented at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
  • NorCon Technologies, commercializing techniques and elements for flexible curved reflectors, was invented at the College of Optical Sciences.
  • GenetiRate, which is 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, was invented at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Impact through NSF I-Corps

As an National Science Foundation 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, entrepreneurial lead and 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 Sept. 12. Applications are due on Aug. 27. 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 TLA office. David Allen, who was hired in 2012 to strategize and build TLA, retired in AprilDouglas Hockstad, whom 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.