September 28, 2020
OTC Breaks Idea-Generating Records: FY20
Getting Ideas out of the Lab
Duke’s Office of Licensing & Ventures (OTC) oversees the management of innovations resulting from Duke research – from creation, to feasibility and marketing, to protection, and on into licensing to commercial partners, for both startups and existing companies. Our research faculty and staff worked tirelessly in FY20, helping the office break multiple records.
OTC received an all-time high of 405 invention disclosures, 26 of them COVID-19 related innovations. Revenue from licensing brought more than $65 million to Duke, an increase of seven million from the previous year.
“Another record year further demonstrates the innovative culture of faculty and staff at Duke,” said Robin Rasor, executive director of OTC. “These collaborative and multidisciplinary ideas have resulted in more inventions moving out of the lab and onto the market.”
Licensing to outside interests, OTC negotiated 105 agreements, 29 of them exclusive license agreements. In addition, there were 27 option agreements signed, which paves the way for next year’s licenses. Due to an inrush in disclosures, OTC filed a record 455 U.S. patent applications, up from 360.
The Duke New Ventures (DNV) program helped to create 17 new start-ups this year, bringing the total to nearly 160 new companies created since the tech transfer office was formed in 1986. 15 of these new start-ups are staying in North Carolina culminating in 90% staying local over the past three years.
“Durham and the Triangle remain a great place to start a high-tech company,” said Rob Hallford, the director, DNV. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen strong, investable startups in the emerging fields of gene therapy, vaccine manufacturing, quantum computing, AI, and more, there is a lot of potential for a start-up to stay here and grow.”
DNV Venture Day and Investor Day resulted in several start-up companies working towards term sheets while Duke-hatched companies brought in over $270 million in investment, with more than $35 million of that staying in North Carolina this past fiscal year.
Moving Ideas Online
The digital economy–hardware, software, e-commerce, digital media, telecommunications, support services–has taken a huge leap in the past six months. An already booming industry, it has been fueled by many people working from home during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We continue to see a significant uptick in the number of digital innovations and associated commercialization deals, especially in the areas of digital health, AI, machine learning, and data visualization,” said Dinesh Divakaran, director of digital innovations at OTC. “COVID-19 has created a ‘needs required’ environment, and we’re seeing many people step up and fill those needs.”
In addition to working closely with faculty and staff, we are also now collaborating more with local IT small businesses as bandwidth extenders to help drive some of these commercialization deals.
This year, Duke’s digital innovations (DI) earned more than $1 million in licensing revenue, up significantly from just over $143,000 five years ago. Duke employees filed 105 DI inventions disclosures and started 6 new DI companies. The DI team facilitated these startups with DNV and negotiated 57 DI license agreements, 11 of which were exclusive agreements.
Drug Discovery Ideas
This past year also resulted in a collaborative partnership with Deerfield Management Company to help move forward early stage drug discovery innovations at Duke.
By way of a newly launched company called Four Points Innovation, up to $130 million of initial funding will be made available by Deerfield to back drug discovery at Duke, for the next 10 years. Deerfield also will provide development expertise in support of Duke’s innovative drug research across a span of high-need therapeutic areas, as well as those targeting patients who suffer from hard-to-treat and rare diseases.
“There is a growing desire among our faculty to be more innovative and entrepreneurial,” said Lawrence Carin, the vice president for research. “As more of our faculty earn reputations as successful entrepreneurs, they encourage others to innovate, which in turn creates more ideas that will ultimately have a positive impact on society.”