Big 12 shows off inventions

Lawrence,KS (03-02-2007)

From Lawrence Journal-World
By Jonathan Kealing

Kansas City, Mo. -- Its not always about athletic competitions when the universities of the Big 12 Conference get together.

As part of National Entrepreneurship Week USA, the Big 12 Center for Economic Development, Innovation and Commercialization--an experimental group organized by the 12 university presidents and chancellors, referred to as CEDIC--held a summit meeting Thursday to discuss ways that universities can get their inventions out of the research lab and into the marketplace.

Each university brought three emerging technologies to present to a panel of experts, including venture capitalists, business people, attorneys and fellow academicians.

Kansas University brought three of its most well-known innovations, including its new radio frequency identification tags, the Actifier and technology that could fundamentally change the way HIV is treated.

Jim Roberts, vice provost for research at KU, said the KU community could benefit from the discussions about technology and research that came out of the event.

"We need to be thinking about how our alumni are going to help us play in this game," Roberts said.

He mentioned the potential for donations to a research fund, similar to one operated at Purdue University, as one way alumni could help improve the quality and quantity of ongoing research.

Jim Laufenberg, president of ImmunoGenetix, was one of the three presenters brought to the conference by KU. ImmunoGenetix holds the license on technology that fights HIV that a KU researcher developed. Laufenberg said hes in the process of looking for a pharmaceutical industry partner to take on the work his company has done.

"My role is as the baton passer. I take the baton from the university setting to the industry setting," Laufenberg said. "Were raising money to investigate the drug process and have human trials."

Laufenberg said the drug his company is working on is probably 12 to 18 months away from establishing a partnership with a pharmaceutical company, at which time true clinical trials are likely to begin. He said he was interested in getting some feedback from the panel.

Steven St. Peter, a KU graduate from Wichita who is now living and working for a Boston venture capital firm, was among those on the panel quizzing and critiquing Laufenbergs presentation.

"There are great companies in this region," St. Peter said. "Maybe one or two of these companies will nail it, but they all will contribute to the process."

The venture capitalist said he was doing most of this as simply "pro bono work," but he acknowledged he was keeping an eye on companies coming out of a region he may have to be more interested in over the next year.

"This is a pretty sophisticated group," he said.

Ron Kessler, one of the founders of the Big 12 CEDIC, said he wanted the event to help take some of the complexity out of technology transfer. Kessler said hed measure success of the event based on the number of conversations that happened Thursday that otherwise wouldnt have occurred.

"Were going to have to do a real evaluation, but it seems those conversations are happening," he said. "Were going to get feedback about doing more of these events."

Kessler said the Big 12 is the only athletic conference promoting academic and economic development.

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