Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tech Spotlight: Highly Active Multidentate Catalysts for Alkyne Metathesis

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the organic chemistry field in alkyne metathesis (an organic reaction involving the redistribution of alkyne chemical bonds). Alkyne metathesis has shown tremendous potential in natural product synthesis and refining technology. However, current limitations make it difficult for researchers to understand and utilize the full potential of this technology, with the most common problems being unwanted polymerization and nonproductive reactive pathways, both of which have made it difficult for researchers to study or tune the structure.

A research team from the University of Colorado led by Wei Zhang has developed a new highly active catalyst for the metathesis of alkynes. By designing a multidentate ligand to block one binding site of the triple bonded alkynes, a new highly active catalyst has been created. The multidentate ligand produces a more robust, longer lasting catalyst that offers a broader substrate scope, a faster reaction rate, and higher stability.

To learn more, please view a short, non-confidential summary of Dr. Zhang's work, or go directly to the key scientific publication. For more CU technologies available for licensing, please visit our Tech Explorer site.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 2011 Newsletter Now Available

Top stories from TTO's October newsletter:

TTO Begins Technology Commercialization Clinic Pilot Program

TTO Hosts Tech Alliance Breakfast November 1

TTO Commentary: Patent Trolls and Patent Reform

CU to Host Cleantech Business Plan Competition
Students working on renewable energy startup companies have a chance to compete for $100,000 in a competition put on by the University of Colorado at Boulder. CU-Boulder received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to put on a regional clean-technology business plan competition, which will be put on in conjunction with the New Venture Challenge, an annual cross-campus business-plan competition put on by the university every year. CU was one of six universities across the country chosen to receive a total of $2 million from the Department of Energy to put on the regional competitions.

MiRagen Lands $352M MicroRNA Development Pact with Servier
CU licensee miRagen Therapeutics has racked up its first big collaboration, inking a development pact with France's Servier for two of its top preclinical programs as well as a third, as yet unidentified, program. In exchange for commercialization rights outside the U.S. and Japan, miRagen gets $45M in an upfront payment, research support and near-term milestones, up to $352M in total milestones and double-digit royalties on approved products.

Read the full newsletter, or sign up to receive a monthly email update.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Event: ESPRIT Tech Alliance Breakfast

On Tuesday, November 1, TTO will host the ESPRIT Tech Alliance Breakfast (part of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce ESPRIT Entrepreneur celebration), which highlights CU-Boulder innovations at all points along the innovation spectrum: from lab to startup to successful company. Short presentations from five researchers and entrepreneurs will be followed by time to mingle with the presenters, as well as with other members of the CU-Boulder innovation community. Presenters:
  • SuviCa, Inc. is using its proprietary screening technology to discover and develop novel drugs utilized either as stand-alone therapies or to prevent tumor recurrence following treatment with a variety of approved anti-cancer therapies. 
  • Mobile Assay Inc.’s patent-pending smartphone technology and applications provide an integrated system that can be used to detect and quantify dangerous pathogens found in produce, infectious agents in biological fluids, pollutants in aquifers, and drug-related metabolites in saliva. Its system has the capacity to securely transmit and store geo-tagged data for real-time analysis and tracking of more than 1000 potential targets. 
  • Solid Power LLC is funded by a DARPA Phase 1 and 2 program to create rechargeable batteries with ultra-high energy density or power using nanostructured materials. The CU team behind Solid Power is developing solid-state batteries with new electrode nanocomposites that yield a step-function increase in battery capacity over state-of-the-art lithium ion technologies. 
  • Double Helix is commercializing a three-dimensional super-resolution optical imaging technology developed at CU. The patent pending imaging technology has increased accuracy, with resolution in the nanometer regime, at a cost that is comparable to much lower resolution imaging technologies available on the market today.
  • Phobos Energy is changing the landscape of solar energy with the next generation of distributed power electronics. Phobos is developing parallel DC optimizers to provide the lowest system cost and the highest system power output.
Details, agenda and registration are available online; for more information contact Lindsay Lennox (303-735-5518).

Monday, October 17, 2011

TTO Begins Technology Commercialization Clinic Pilot Program

The University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office is pleased to announce the start of its Technology Commercialization Clinic, a pilot program designed to enhance the technology commercialization process at CU.

The Clinic consists of 25 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from a diverse set of research labs at CU-Boulder and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, each paired with a volunteer patent attorney mentor and a technology licensing manager. Clinic participants will attend a monthly series of presentations and interactive discussions, along with an October 2011 networking event where they will learn about intellectual property protection, technology assessment, commercial opportunity and technology road mapping. Participants will assist in identifying technologies and inventions in their departments with commercial potential, and may also be involved in defining a proof of concept strategy for those technologies, to help move them closer to market readiness.

The goal of the Clinic is two-fold: on the one hand, the quality of invention disclosures and the overall impact of technologies is expected to increase as students and research associates are able to identify new inventions. On the other hand, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will obtain a better educational experience by acquiring important skills in intellectual property and technology transfer, which has become essential in both academic and non-academic science careers. The Technology Commercialization Clinic will also make the relationship between TTO and the academic community more effective, by involving academic researchers earlier and more consistently. TTO expects that this more fluid relationship will lead to greater trust between researchers and TTO, while increasing awareness in CU's research departments for commercial opportunities.

TTO Commentary: Patent Trolls and Patent Reform

The “patent troll” – a person or company that acquires and enforces patents in hopes of generating revenue from legal settlements, rather than from marketing the patented invention – has become far more than just an annoying and dimwitted wart-nosed creature lurking under a bridge and demanding a toll to cross. He has become a driver of patent law reformation, an impediment to economic growth, and a force to be reckoned with in a variety of industries. A new study released by Boston University highlights these facts. Further, the results of this study show a disparity between the way patent trolls affect two of the leading industries lobbying for patent law reforms, and lend credence to the small but growing call for a bifurcated patent system that would treat the computer/software industry separately from other industries, particularly the biotechnology industry.

The most appalling result reported in the study relates to the estimated economic costs of patent trolls. “Patent trolls … have cost publicly traded defendants $500 billion since 1990. And the problem has become most severe in recent years. In the last four years, the costs have averaged $83 billion per year.” These estimated costs are so large that they have driven the patent reform lobbying movement inf the IT sector for years. Trolls take advantage of the fact that it’s far easier to predict and enable a forward-thinking patent application in the IT sector than it is in biotech or pharmaceuticals – industries where the patent office has moved further and further towards requiring significant proof of concept data to get a patent issued, the kind of data that is expensive to generate and stands as an almost-absolute barrier to troll-like behavior.

That contention is borne out in the BU study by analysis of the lawsuits filed by trolls: “Software patents accounted for about 62% of the lawsuits. In contrast, only 2% of the lawsuits involved drug or chemical patents.” As a result, software and computer patent lobbyists focus on making it harder to receive patents and on supporting multiple opportunities to challenge patents early after issuance; these lobbyists are generally unconcerned with longevity or strength of patents, since most IT products have a very short shelf life, far shorter than the term of patent protection available to them.

In contrast to these positions, the biotech-pharma world is focused on recovery of strong patent term on the backside of a patent’s life, to protect products that have very long and expensive development paths – for instance, the average cost to develop a single drug (after factoring in all the failures that are part of the drug development process) is now over $1B, with an 8-12 year development path that often reduces drug's patent protection by patent by more than 50%. To thrive, the biotech and pharma sectors need a strong presumption of patent validity, longer patent life, difficult and limited patent challenge rules, and (ideally) a more relaxed stance from both the USPTO and the FDA, to allow more patents to issue and drugs to be approved more quickly so as to enjoy sufficient patent protection. These needs are not unique to the biotech and pharma sectors, but they are often best championed by these sectors, which (unlike most other industrial fields) lose significant patent life due to regulatory hurdles.

Patent trolls help drive this stark disparity: if trolls didn’t have such power, if they weren’t costing so much to innovators, it is entirely possible the software and computer industry would find itself more aligned with biotech and pharma on patent reform priorities. Unfortunately, given their different vulnerabilities to troll-like behavior, such a world is unlikely – neither industry is likely to be comfortable with a patent system that is beneficial to the other, and a system that tries to split the difference ends up woefully inadequate for both industries.

Meanwhile, the question of whether software should even be patented is not new, and continues to see action at the Supreme Court level. Rather than addressing whether software is patentable under the laws as written, it would be more beneficial to focus on whether software and other short-lived products that don’t require long term patent protection (and which can be easily prophesized by trolls) should be included in the same system used by industries that thrive with patents that protect their products for as long as possible.

A possible, though politically perilous solution, would be a bifurcation of the patent system, allowing software patents to exist in a different setting with rules that will deter or even eliminate the threat of trolls, and with regulations and policies that create a system that is exclusively designed for the acquisition and enforcement of software patents. There is no formal movement at this time to create such a monumental change to the U.S. patent laws, and in light of the long-overdue and finally successful patent reform achieved earlier this year, the timing may not be right to ask Congress to go back to the drawing board yet again. That said, it’s clear that trolls are a drag on the U.S. economy, and at a time when the economy continues to sputter and misfire, any opportunity to provide a kickstart should be considered. A good first step would be a study of the feasibility of splitting the patent system so that all of the industries relying on it can best take advantage of their patents.

David Poticha is a senior licensing manager in TTO's University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus office.