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ECU among top universities in getting innovations to public

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Oct. 3, 2006)   —   East Carolina University ranks in the top-10 in five categories in a recent report that scores universities around the world on how well they turn their researchers' innovations into products that serve the public.

The Milken Institute examined the world's leading universities for biotechnology research and for their ability to turn their intellectual property into commercial applications.

For every $1 million in research at ECU, the university ranks third in the number of patents issued, sixth in the number of inventions disclosed, sixth in the number of startup companies formed and eighth in the number of patents filed. ECU also ranks ninth in the ratio of patents issued to patents filed.

"In the field of technology transfer, it is recognized that it takes about 15 years for a program to achieve success," said Marti Van Scott, director of the ECU Office of Technology Transfer. "ECU's program was established in 1997, so being recognized is a testament to the institution's commitment to support a culture of innovation."

The Milken report, "Mind to Market: A Global Analysis of University Biotechnology Transfer and Commercialization," shows the position of these institutions in the commercialization pipeline, which starts with the quality of research, moves to patented ideas and on to commercial outcomes. The report says U.S. universities dominate the rankings on many key measures, including published research, patents issued and licensing income.

According to the report, every dollar universities spend on technology transfer efforts brings $6 in licensing income. Each 10-point increase in the score for published research contributes an additional $1.7 million to a university's annual licensing income. For each additional year an office of technology transfer is in operation, it generates $228,000 in incremental licensing income.

One of ECU's best-known inventions is the Speecheasy device that helps people who stutter speak more fluently. It was developed by Joseph Kalinowski, Andrew Stuart and Michael Rastatter of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Here are a few other recent inventions by ECU faculty members:

--Monoclonal antibody for detection and treatment of ovarian cancer by pathology and laboratory medicine faculty member Anne Kellogg and former obstetrics and gynecology faculty member Diane Semer. License negotiations are ongoing.

--Software developed by chemistry faculty member Paul Gemperline to facilitate efficient and cost-effective chemical batch processing for the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries. The software is licensed to H&A Scientific, a local company founded by ECU chemistry graduate Craig Hamilton.

--Software developed by nursing faculty member Patricia Payne, nurse Janice Taleff and computing consultants Karl Faser and Yanhoa Zhu to help train nurse midwifery students. License negotiations are ongoing.

--A medical device to detect arterial blockages using sound waves developed by mathematics faculty member David Pravica, physics faculty member Orville Day and doctoral student Scott Brock. Business opportunities are being explored.

--A program developed by foreign language faculty members Carol Christian and Ann Borisoff-Rogers and Multimedia Center manager Laurie Godwin featuring color-coded flash cards to help people learn Spanish. A publisher is being sought for licensing.

According to Milken, universities tend to be oriented toward basic research that addresses long-term, fundamental scientific discovery and knowledge. An increasing share of the funding -- from government, industry, nonprofit donors and other sources -- is going into biotechnology and life sciences.

The report looked at 683 universities including 217 in the United States, 303 in Europe, 56 in Japan, 30 in Canada and 11 in China.

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Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2481