OMAHA & LINCOLN, Nebraska (June 24, 2020)—For the third straight year, the University of Nebraska system is ranked among the top 100 academic institutions worldwide in earning U.S. patents.
A newly released report from the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association lists the NU system at No. 65, a 14-spot improvement from the previous year. The ranking reflects the 44 patents granted in 2019 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the University’s technology transfer offices: UNeMed and her sister office NUtech Ventures in Lincoln. UNeMed is the technology transfer office for UNMC and UNO.
“The University of Nebraska’s culture of innovation grows stronger and stronger year after year” said UNeMed president and CEO, Michael Dixon, Ph.D. “The ongoing creativity from our inventors only proves it, and will soon pay dividends not just to our overall health, but throughout the ecosystem as the backbone of some new high-growth, high-wage Nebraska companies.”
Patents allow UNeMed and NUtech Ventures to work with faculty, staff and students to bring research and innovations in areas like biotechnology, agriculture, healthcare, engineering and others to the marketplace. The results are new startup companies, jobs and university-licensed products that grow the economy and improve quality of life.
“It’s always gratifying to see the University of Nebraska land on lists like this,” Dixon said. “But it’s also important to realize that patents are but one tool for us as we try to help these discoveries and innovations move forward. Patents are great, but that just the beginning for us and NUtech.”
Often, a patent can attract collaborative partnerships that help finance and support additional research and development of University technologies. Right now, 71 percent of UNeMed’s patent portfolio is licensed for further development.
Of UNeMed’s 21 issued U.S. patents last year, 17 were licensed to nine different companies.
“What that means is that’s 17 technologies that are getting the additional support they need for further development,” Dixon said. “In a nutshell, that’s why we exist: To help push University innovations as far down the development road as possible.”
Among the companies that licensed UNeMed’s issued patents, seven are Nebraska startups, including Radux Devices.
Radux developed a device that helps physicians avoid the muscoskeletal stresses and injuries common for interventional radiologists. Developed by Greg Gordon, a former UNMC interventional radiologist, the device improves the ergonomics of catheter management during fluoroscopic procedures. It now serves as the basis for Omaha-based startup company Radux Devices, which is manufacturing and selling multiple FDA-approved medical devices that help improve safety and quality for both patients and physicians.
Seven patents are related to the groundbreaking surgical robots created by co-inventors Shane Farritor, Ph.D., and former UNMC surgeon, Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D. So far, Virtual Incision has raised more than $50 million, and has already succeeded in early human trials as it approaches FDA clearance.
Another licensed and patented technology is also approaching FDA approval: A hemodialysis catheter invented by nephrologist Marius Florescu, M.D. Licensed to Chrysalis Medical, the new catheter contains a small balloon that can expand to break up the kind of tissue that often forces physicians to replace catheters.
Yet another licensed technology that earned patents in 2019 was in collaboration with Vireo Systems, which operates a manufacturing facility in Plattsmouth, Neb. Vireo makes and sells health supplements such as UNMC’s creatine ethyl-ester and creatine hydrochloride compounds. They are both sold globally under the brand names “CON-CRET” and “AminoActiv,” respectively.
Two more patents are continued testament to the creativity of Sam Sanderson, Ph.D., who suddenly passed away in 2017. His startup company, Prommune, along with his co-inventor, Joe Vetro, Ph.D., are developing immune-stimulating peptides that can boost the human immune system to fight deadly infections.
“All these technologies will help improve the quality of life for countless people over the coming years,” Dixon said. “That’s fantastic, but another result is the juice they add to Nebraska’s economic engine. Those home-brewed innovations create new industry and produce the kind of high-paying jobs that can really boost the local and state economy.”