UMass records best-ever year for startup businesses

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts created six new startup companies within the past year, the most ever, and the companies range from music software technology to gene therapy.
The university also set new records for patent applications and the number of faculty members disclosing inventions, President Robert L. Caret said Monday in a press release.
The new companies reflect the university’s increased focus on coaching, mentoring and providing other services and support to help researchers start businesses.
The six companies spun out of UMass inventions this year were:

  • Voyager Therapeutics for its “RNA Interference” by Phil Zamore, Guangping Gao, Neil Aronin and others at UMass Medical School. The company is developing gene therapy methods to treat several neurological diseases including ALS, Parkinson and Huntington’s Disease.
  • Felsuma for its “Geckskin-adhesive Technology” by Professors Al Crosby and Duncan Irshick at UMass Amherst. Felsuma is commercializing a new technology, Geckskin, licensed from UMass Amherst. Geckskin is a three-dimensional and transformational adhesive that can attach and release repeatedly from multiple surfaces with high bonding strength. The major markets are large and include clothing, shoes, households, medical devices, military and construction.
  • Aha! Productions/Innovation Accelerator for its “Obscure Features Hypothesis” by Joseph McCaffrey from UMass Amherst. The company licenses UMass software technology that is useful in creativity and invention processes. The firm’s first product, Analogy finder, offers a software package that seeks to rationalize the process of creativity and invention.
  • Sonation for its “Expert System for Musical Accompaniment” by Chris Raphael from UMass Amherst. The company is developing music software technology that transforms singing and playing instruments into a more interactive, fun experience. It is creating apps that simulate playing with a full band or orchestra that listens and responds to the user’s style. The first product, Cadenza, is available at the iStore for use on the iPad.
  • TATT LLC for its “Use of siRNA to Preserve Organs for Transplant” by Professors Timothy Kowalik and Marc Uknis from UMass Medical School; the technology relates to the use of siRNA to improve organs being used for transplantation by minimizing organ rejection and transplantation-mediated transmission of viral infection, and the triggering of apoptosis in transplanted tissue.
  • Agalimmune Ltd. for its “Cancer Immunotherapy” by Dr. Uri Galili from UMass Medical School. The company is developing innovative immunotherapies for the treatment of solid tumors based on Galili’s work.

Also, for the eighth straight year, UMass generated more than $30 million in licensing income, enough to ensure that the university maintains its place in national surveys of universities with the highest licensing income derived from academic research, Caret said in a press release.

In addition to the six new startups, the University of Massachusetts recorded 157 patent applications and 180 faculty invention disclosures for fiscal 2014, which ended June 30. In all three categories, it was the university’s best-ever yearly performance.

The university also was granted 54 patents for ideas that have the potential to be commercialized. UMass generated more than $31 million in licensing revenue in fiscal 2014.

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With the increased focus on entrepreneurship, the university changed the name of the office responsible for commercializing its technology – from the Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property to the Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures. The office also houses the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center, which for more than a decade has assisted in the commercialization of research coming out of Massachusetts institutions, particularly through the creation of new companies.

The University of Massachusetts ranked 14th in licensing income among all United States universities participating in a survey released last year by the Association of University Technology Managers. UMass was sixth among all public universities and second in Massachusetts, behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with $35 million in licensing revenue, in that survey.

A recent study by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association found that UMass ranked among the top universities granted patents in 2013. UMass placed No. 32 on the top 100 list, behind only MIT and Harvard in the six-state New England region.

As for patents, the university was granted 18 patents in 2006 compared to 54 this year. Patent applications have climbed by 52 percent from 103 to 157 between 2006 and this year, and faculty invention disclosures increased by nearly 28 percent, from 141 to 180.

“Research is one of the three pillars of the University of Massachusetts, along with teaching and public service,” Caret said. “It is one of the things we do that helps give the Commonwealth a critical edge in the development of the innovation economy.”