Banner year for Purdue's commercialization of technology

Published: June 10, 2002

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In 2001 more Purdue University discoveries and inventions were brought to the marketplace than in any other year, said Purdue Research Foundation officials.

"These increased numbers tell a story about the entrepreneurial spirit of Purdue's faculty and the intense market demand for the technologies they create," said Lisa Kuuttila, assistant vice president for technology commercialization and director of the foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization. "The efforts behind them are among the reasons Purdue was ranked among the top dozen universities in the promotion of its state's economic development."

In comparison with the prior year, the foundation's 2001 invention and copyright disclosure numbers grew 30 percent to 152, the number of its filings for new patents (42 new regular and 67 provisional applications) more than doubled, the number of license agreements with companies rose from 266 to 322, and gross income from royalties increased 50 percent to $2.43 million.

"OTC worked closely with both the companies and faculty to speed the process along," Kuuttila said. "We facilitated visits to Purdue by 146 companies interested in commercializing the foundation's intellectual property. Then we focused on faculty interested in forming companies based on Purdue-licensed technology. We hosted nine Entrepreneur Forums to inform them and give them an opportunity to network with each other."

As a result of an increased focus on entrepreneurial activities in 2001, 10 new companies were formed based on Purdue technologies, twice the previous year's number.

One of the companies launched last year, Griffin Analytical Technologies Inc. (GAT), is developing an affordable, miniaturized mass spectrometer at the Purdue Research Park. Purdue researchers discovered a way to make very delicate mass spectrometers portable, eliminating the need for the operator to bring samples back to the lab for analysis. Applications for this portable device involve many industries (i.e. chemical process monitoring, consumer product and automotive), and homeland security applications are under consideration.

Meantime, a record-breaking 16 Purdue-licensed technologies hit the market last year, including a shampoo that uses a new technology to kill head lice, genetically modified pest-resistant fruit trees, and a biomaterial that is helping to surgically repair hernias.

Purdue researcher Jerry McLaughlin identified certain compounds found in the bark and twigs of the pawpaw tree that are capable of controlling insects and pests. This discovery led to the formulation of PawPaw Lice Remover Shampoo.

"The greatest harm associated with head lice may result from the well-meaning, but unwise, use of toxic shampoos, such as those containing Lindane, an organo-chlorinated pesticide in the same chemical family as DDT," McLaughlin said. He is vice president of research and development, and chief scientific officer, of Nature's Sunshine Products Inc., the Provo, Utah-based company that licensed the pawpaw technology.

"Lindane is thought to cause seizures, and studies indicate that head lice has become resistant to many other existing products, including pyrethrin-based pesticides. However, our pawpaw shampoo can safely and effectively eliminate the problem without side effects or pest resistance."

More than 35 percent of last year's license agreements were made with Indiana-based companies. For example, fruit varieties bred by Purdue researchers to resist pests were licensed to Rocky Meadow Nursery of Lawrenceburg, Ind. Two apple trees and one pear tree are sold through online catalogs such as Gardens Alive.

"Apple growers are relying more and more on genetic resistance to pests, pest monitoring and other methods to minimize the need for synthetic pesticides," said Jules Janick, James Troop Distinguished Professor Horticulture. "At Purdue, we've produced apple trees that are easier to maintain while still producing delicious fruit."

Purdue's "Pixie Crunch" is a red apple that ripens in early September and has scab immunity. It is a smallish, sweet-flavored, super-crisp apple. "Sundance" is a yellow apple ripening in mid-October that has a fruity flavor somewhat like a mild pineapple. The apples have a long shelf life, the tree resists apple scab, cedar-apple rust and fireblight. The "Green Jade" pear is a productive, medium-to-large, summer pear ripening in early to mid-August in Indiana with moderate fireblight tolerance.

Writer: Jeanine Phipps, Purdue Research Park public relations director, (765) 496-3133; jeanine@purdue.edu

Sources:

Lisa Kuuttila, (765) 496-7378; kuuttila@purdue.edu

Dennis Barket, Jr., Griffin Analytical Technologies, Inc., (765) 775-1701; barket@griffinanalytical.com

Jerry McLaughlin, Nature's Sunshine Products, Inc., (801) 798-4161; jerry@natr.com

Jules Janick, (765) 494-1329; janick@hort.purdue.edu