Building a new startup in the middle of a global pandemic presents a whole new set of challenges. While handling the usual responsibilities of filing patents and building startups, many University of Michigan professors and researchers have turned to UM Innovation Partnershipsformerly known as the Office of Technology Transfer, for advice.
The University reported a record number of patents in fiscal year 2021, with UM Innovation Partnerships receiving more than 502 invention proposals, of which 169 became official American patents.
Speaking about faculty and their research aspirations, Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research and innovation partnerships, said UM Innovation Partnerships works to help researchers connect their work to the private sector by commercializing their research.
“We’re really excited to support faculty and be seen as their partners in their innovation journey,” Sexton said. “They are truly our partners and we are here to give them everything they need. Sometimes (if no pre-existing company can help professors), we help them bring a new technology out of a research lab and then use it commercially by creating a new company.
Innovation partnerships supported the launch of 23 new start-ups in the last financial year. Startups in the UM Innovation Partnerships portfolio span the areas of life sciences, copyright, physical sciences and software. The projects all come from faculty working on key topics such as energy renewal, cellular analysis and interactive technology.
Of these, two companies have seen success in recent years and both began working with the partnership in 2020.
Blue conduita water infrastructure analytics consulting firm that uses data-driven technology to inventory and locate lead service lines, was founded with the goal of monitoring lead service lines across the United States. United. 6 to 10 million service lines that connect water pipes to households, so managing them is a large-scale project, according to president and COO Ian Robinson.
“Drinking water flowing through lead service lines was the primary source of contamination in Flint, Newark and several cities that have experienced cloudy water crises in recent years,” Robinson said.
Two university professors and data scientists, Jacob Abernethy and Eric Schwartz, founded Blue Conduit. Abernethy and Schwartz were working with different groups of UM students to help communicate water quality information to Flint residents in 2015, during the peak of the water crisis.
Drawing on their backgrounds in data science, Robinson said Abernethy and Schwartz view this crisis as both an infrastructure problem and a data problem.
“By using fundamental statistical processes and machine learning to help the city reconcile uncertainty, they could help prioritize replacement efforts so that those who are more likely to have lead in service lines are the ones first to get replacements and then move on to the next house,” Robinson said. “Blue Conduit’s data-driven technology helps identify key service lines and gives them confidence that they can solve this problem efficiently and cost-effectively. »
Blue Conduit’s technology was even highlighted by TIME as one of the best inventions of 2021 in the sustainability category.
Robinson praised UM’s innovation partnerships, which have benefited the company’s work and impact, now expanded to 50 cities.
“(They have been) a great partner in helping take Blue Conduit from a specific project to a true scalable solution,” Robinson said. “Our job is to maximize our impact and help our community overcome difficult questions about data and, more broadly, public health. Innovation partnerships have helped the impact of our work extend beyond the city and across the country.
LynxDx, the second successful company, is a biotechnology startup that uses prostate cancer diagnostic tests to determine levels of cancer genes in urine. Given the widespread spread of COVID-19, the company has decided to shift its focus to supporting local testing due to the lack of testing centers in Michigan.
UM-Innovation Partnerships helped LynxDx market its work and assist during its transition to a COVID-19 testing center after seeing the company’s commitment to benefiting the health of Ann Arbor residents.
The company was originally founded to screen for prostate cancer. The primary tool used by LynxDx in its screening efforts is MyProstateScore (MPS)which uses traditional prostate screening results along with levels of two cancer genes found in urine to create a more comprehensive look at a person’s prostate cancer risk.
As UM Innovation Partnerships prepares to support more academic research and potential startups, they have added a new service, specifically to find new ways to partner with businesses and better connect them with the private sector.
“This is our Corporate Research Alliance group,” Sexton said. “This is a new team that we just created in September to help faculty move from a relationship with a company to a truly successful sponsored research engagement.”
Daily News Contributor Sejal Patil can be contacted at: email@example.com.