Commercializing the discoveries of university researchers has long been considered a key part of economic development. Google began with the licensing of a Stanford University patent. But it takes help for an academic to move his or her research from the theoretical to the practical.
LSU is trying to help its inventors make the contacts to do just that.
Part of that effort involves honoring the scientists who obtained patents during the most recent fiscal year. Another part involves taking those honorees and putting them in the same room with people from the business community. Both will take place at the LSU Office of Innovation & Technology Commercialization’s second annual Inventorship Showcase at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lod Cook Conference Center.
“We really want those people to be able to rub shoulders with our faculty to figure out what sort of synergies, linkages, ways in which we can help that technology into the next level,” said Andrew J. Maas, the innovation office’s director.
LSU researchers obtained nine patents during the fiscal year ending June 30. That’s not many compared with schools known as research centers or even among most schools in the Southeastern Conference. The University of California system had 453 patents in 2014. The University of Florida had 87. Vanderbilt had 55. The universities of Arkansas and Kentucky had 32. The University of South Carolina had 31. Texas A&M, the University of Georgia and the University of Missouri each had 30. The University of Tennessee had 24.
These sorts of numbers were unheard of in 1980, when U.S. colleges and universities were issued less than 250 patents and only a few were commercialized, according to the Association of University Technology Managers. The group has more than 3,200 members from more than 300 universities. In 2014, association members received 6,363 U.S. patents, signed 5,435 new license agreements, formed 914 startups and developed 965 new commercial products, and generated $28 billion from product sales.
Maas said LSU isn’t focusing on the number of patents so much as what happens afterward.
“Patents are only valuable for commercial application. If we’re just getting patents for patents’ sake, then ...” Maas said, trailing off. “There are probably better uses of the researchers’ time.”
Emphasizing economic development as one of the fundamental missions of higher education was one of 46 recommendations the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana made in its 2015 report “Innovation in Louisiana: Maximizing Investment in University Research to Promote a Knowledge-Based Economy.”
Walter D. Valdivia, a fellow in the Center for Technology Innovation at The Brookings Institution, said commercialization is one part of the embedded university model, as opposed to the ivory tower model where research is “unencumbered by actual social problems of simple mortals.”
“A university that directly engages entrepreneurship is much more sensitive to the needs of the region and the society in which it operates,” Valdivia said. Basic research is still important. The arts, fiction, even the research of historic arcana are also ways the university benefits society.
But university innovation can invigorate an existing industry or create startups that inject energy into the economy, he said.
Maas said all nine of the LSU researchers’ patents have the potential to be life-changing and that a handful could achieve this in a way the average person will notice.
The nine patents LSU scientists were issued for the 12 months ending June 30 are as follows:
Carbon-encased metal nanoparticles and sponges, methods of synthesis and methods of use, Kun Lian and Qinglin Wu. Essentially, the researchers are taking a metal nanoparticle and encasing it in a carbon shell.
Wood can be pressure-treated with the carbon-coated particles, which can protect the wood from termites, mold and fungus, Wu said. The nanoparticles also can be mixed into wood-based composites such as particle board and used in commercial food storage boxes to extend the life of goods transported long distances.
The accidental version of this protection can be seen on any roof where shingles lie below flashing or metal vents, Maas said. Those shingles look cleaner because rain washes metal particles onto them, protecting them.
Bovine herpes vaccine with multiple mutations, Shafiqul I. Chowdhury and Hui Yong Wei. The vaccine is better than current treatment methods because it continually inoculates against the virus, so cattle have to be vaccinated only once.
Bovine herpes infections can lead to a severe respiratory tract infection — bovine rhinotracheitis — that can reduce milk and meat production and cause pregnant cows to miscarry.
The Beef Cattle Research Council says bovine rhinotracheitis is the most common and costly disease affecting North America’s beef cattle industry, with losses estimated at $1 billion a year.
Methods of extracting chemical compounds from organisms with resistant cell walls, Maria Teresa Gutierrez-Wing and Kelly A. Rusch. A cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way to rupture cell walls of microorganisms and recover the useful contents of the cell. The technique can be used to recover organic compounds and bioproducts from microalgae used in making biofuels, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.
Automated continuous zooplankton culture system, Rusch. A more cost-effective and efficient alternative to the more labor-intensive and expensive systems used to grow zooplankton, the tiny animals found near the water’s surface. Most commercially produced fish need to eat live food during the first few weeks of their lives. Finding a cheap, reliable way to produce zooplankton is limiting commercial fish production. Rusch’s technology could remove that impediment.
Soft tissue fixation device, Mandi J. Lopez and W. Todd Monroe. This is basically a small clip for surgeons to attach anterior cruciate ligament or canine cranial cruciate ligament grafts.
One of the challenges of these procedures is making sure that the grafts have the right tension, Lopez said. Grafts that are too tight or too loose can result in complications, including joint damage. Surgeons now have few options to adjust the graft tension, and readjusting it is a major procedure that can increase the length of surgery. This device makes it possible for doctors to easily control and adjust graft tension for the best possible results
Continuous microscale forming of metal-based microchannels and other microchannel devices, Wen Jin Meng and Fanghua Mei.
This is a process for replicating microscale patterns onto metal surfaces at high speeds, similar to roll-to-roll printing on paper, Meng said. The process can be used to mass produce high aspect-ratio microscale structures that are the basic building blocks for metal microdevices such as high-efficiency heat exchangers and miniature gas sensors.
Configurable decoder with applications in field programmable gate arrays, Ramachandran Vaidyanathan and Matthew Jordan. The programmable hardware can be configured to suit the needs of the computation at hand, which allows faster data transfer to and from semiconductor chips. The global market for the programmable hardware known as field programmable gate arrays has been forecast at $9.9 billion in 2020.
Field programmable gate arrays are used in a range of application areas, including image and video processing, computer networks, and as accelerators for data analytics and high-performance computing.
Soluble and stable human 5-lipoxygenase, Marcia E. Newcomer, Sue G. Bartlett and Nathaniel C. Gilbert. 5-LOX is a target for drugs to treat asthma, but the molecule is difficult to study because it is unstable, Newcomer said. That makes it difficult to determine whether a drug is blocking the action of the molecule or the 5-LOX is just dying.
Newcomer and her team made “a mutant form” of the enzyme that works just like the regular enzyme but does not deactivate as readily. This means researchers can use the mutant form to identify potential inhibitors.
Detection of nucleic acid sequence differences using coupled ligase detection and polymerase chain reactions, Francis Barany, Matthew Lubin, George Barany, Robert Hammer and Phillip Belgrader. This invention combines two common DNA analysis techniques to detect differences in a DNA sequence. Allows for large-scale, reliable and cost-effective DNA analysis for forensic testing, diagnosis of genetic diseases and other genetic testing. The technology already has been licensed.
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