The University of Colorado jumped from No. 53 to No. 20 in a recent global ranking of the top 100 universities granted U.S. utility patents for an array of inventions and innovations that can have far-reaching and positive impacts on society.
The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) and the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) recently announced the 2019 rankings. All four campuses contributed to CU’s total 100+ patents, with CU Boulder contributing 60.
Turning Patents into High Growth Startups
An increase in year-over-year patents is a good sign for a research institution’s ability to innovate, but what happens after a patent is granted? Venture Partners at CU Boulder, the university’s commercialization arm, aims to bring these inventions out of the lab and into the market by building new ventures from the inventions themselves.
Take Inscripta— a digital genome engineering company — for example. The spinoff was founded on an exclusive license to a portfolio of CU patents, including US 10,266,849 “CRISPR enabled multiplexed genome engineering” invented by chemical and biological engineering associate professor and Inscripta co-founder Ryan Gill. The innovation developed in the Gill lab, known as “CREATE,” facilitates rapid, multiplexed editing at multiple locations across the genome.
After raising $260M in investment capital, Inscripta brought the breakthrough digital engineering platform Onyx™, the world's first automated benchtop platform for digital genome engineering, to market (pictured right). It lets researchers design and manufacture small quantities of new organisms, allowing scientists to create libraries of millions of precisely engineered single cells in one experiment through a fully automated workflow.
“While patents alone do not equate to impactful commercialization, they become critical assets when combined with effective partnerships and entrepreneurial endeavors,” said Brynmor Rees, assistant vice chancellor for Research & Innovation at CU Boulder and managing director of Venture Partners. “Our faculty, graduate students, post-docs and research staff are engaging with these programs at unprecedented rates, and the result is not only a larger portfolio of patents, but a portfolio that has more economic and social impact,” said Rees.
Stateless, a company reinventing network connectivity, is a testament to this. Lead inventors Eric Keller, an associate professor in electrical, computer and energy engineering, and Murad Kablan (PhDCompSci’17) co-founded Stateless after completing CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge and Catalyze CU accelerator.
The company is the exclusive licensee of CU Boulder patent US 10,245,348 “Stateless Network Functions.” They applied this patent to create a software-based networking platform which anyone can easily use to build custom, elegant and scalable connectivity solutions, as traditional methods for building networks are rigid and complex. This technology enables new levels of automation, greatly simplifies how businesses access remote IT services and uses computing resources more than five times more cost-effectively than traditional approaches.
“We take pride in our CU Boulder heritage and in being one of the few deep tech companies born in Boulder,” said Mike Anderson, vice president of marketing for Stateless.
Forming Partnerships from Patents
Venture Partners also licenses patents to innovative corporations and new startups to establish a viable commercial path and attract partners, typically after the inventor or research team has engaged with Venture Partners' resources. Through these business partnerships, CU Boulder permits licensee companies to use university intellectual property, such as patents, to further develop their own products or services. It is through this network of partners that CU Boulder’s innovations can be brought to the world, said Rees.
CU Boulder patent US 10,240,998 “Determining a Location and Size of a Gas Source with a Spectrometer Gas Monitor” (pictured right) was created by lead inventor Greg Rieker, a CU Boulder associate professor in mechanical engineering. Rieker, in collaboration with colleagues at CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), applied Nobel Prize-winning research on optical frequency combs to detect trace gases with extraordinary sensitivity.
With this technology and a partnership with NIST, Rieker co-founded Longpath Technologies, a spinoff commercializing cost-effective, continuous gas leak detection. Longpath is currently preparing for commercial deployments starting in summer 2020 and is actively raising their first investment round, which will expand the commercial deployments and grow the team.
Partnership discussions are underway for another 2019 granted CU Boulder patent: US 10,506,930 “Microwave Thermometer for Internal Body Temperature Retrieval” developed by Zoya Popovic, a distinguished professor in electrical, computer and energy engineering. The invention enables non-invasive and location-specific core body temperature measurements — a critical indicator for a variety of health measures including hypoxic ischemia, fertility, neonatal monitoring, and human performance.