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Turning hot research into cold cash

Anne Knowles

The University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute are joining forces to make money off research being conducted at the two institutions.

The pair have formed a joint technology transfer office to take technology developed by faculty and work with the private sector to commercialize it.

“Our faculties are doing a significant amount of research and patentable inventions,” said Richard Bjur, the current director of UNR’s technology transfer office and the director of the UNRDRI office.

“Our role is to identify them and get private companies interested in them.”

That research, said Bjur, includes developing methods to remove arsenic from water, methods to isolate mercury and acid-mine drainage.

In both the agriculture school and school of medicine, he said, faculty is working on isolating plant and mammalian genes.

And professors are creating molecular-sized motors and new receptors for chemicals, among other research.

In fact, the two institutions have 26 issued patents and about another 50 applications for patents pending.

The process starts with faculty, who disclose to the office ongoing research that may have commercial potential.

The technology transfer office investigates the work and if it agrees it is marketable begins to approach corporations and venture capitalists to buy or invest in it.

Each deal is individually worked out, said Bjur, but in the end both the faculty who developed the technology and the institution reap the rewards.

Even government- sponsored research, which is the bulk of the research done at UNR and DRI, can be commercialized for the benefit of the inventors and schools, said Bjur.

UNR, for one, has already been successful moving technology into the private sector.The university helped secure funding modeMD, a software company with technology developed by UNR professor Phil Goodman.

The technology transfer office will by run by Bjur, and Charles Whitaker, the current business manager at DRI’s Division of Atmospheric Science.

Bjur said the search is on to also hire a licensing and marketing specialist.


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