Biology Center, noticed a need for inventory control in his lab. While completing
his MBA, he developed the idea for a software program that would benefit biomedical scientists and save labs thousands of
dollars a year by increasing the efficiency of
purchasing chemicals. He and a colleague
wrote the program, then Patterson ran the
idea past Innes. As a result, he can add to
his lengthy resume, “founder of Dyzen,” a
startup company to market his program.
Bob Blouin, dean of UNC’s pharmacy
school, worked with the OTD on an idea
for a software program created by Associate
Dean Mike Patil. Their program, InfoPort,
keeps track of all aspects of the business
and finance operation of a school — the
federal, state and trust accounts, grants and
contracts. The system tracks assets in real
time, letting the user know how much is
left in an account, whether spending is on
pace with the length of the grant, and
whether the terms of the contract allow
the user to purchase a particular item or
personnel charge through that account.
“It takes what used to require printouts
and Excel spreadsheets and someone sitting
there analyzing them all and reduces that
to point and click,” Patil said.
Not every university can boast of a
Gatorade — the drink patented by University of Florida researchers that has brought
eye-watering returns to the school — but
the OTD takes pride in spin-offs such as
Entegrion, which markets Stasilon, a bandage that promotes blood clotting.
“We haven’t made lots of money off the
bandages,” Innes said, “but we’re excited
because this invention is saving lives.”
UNC is among the top 10 schools
nationwide in a strength-of-patent ranking,
and UNC startups have a lower failure rate
than average. Decisions to patent a technology or launch a business are not always
based on the prospect of financial gain. For
instance, the OTD is working with UNC’s
computer science department on technology that will help learning disabled children.
More undergraduates are thinking
about starting their own companies — and
doing it. For the past four years, the Kauf-
mann Foundation has funded the Carolina
Entrepreneurial Initiative, which offers
experiential learning opportunities, speakers, faculty forums and research opportunities to help students and faculty learn how
to create commercial, social, scientific and
artistic ventures. Partly as a result, entrepreneurship is the most popular minor in the
College of Arts and Sciences.
A newly acquired Clinical and Translational Science Award will fund three or
four entrepreneurs coming into UNC on a
part-time basis to help faculty recognize
when they have ideas with patent potential.
A professor living under the publish-or-perish philosophy in academia might present a paper at a conference, inadvertently
disqualifying that idea from being patented.
The CTSA entrepreneurs will work with
researchers to figure out the best tack to
bring the most benefit to the inventor, the
University and the general public.
Tony Waldrop ’ 74, vice chancellor for
research and economic development,
expects the OTD to get even busier. Many
of the technologies and ideas the office
works to protect come from life-science
research, and about half of that research is
funded through National Institutes of
Health grants. The federal Economic Stimulus Package passed earlier this year
included an extra $10 billion to NIH.
“Since we do so well with NIH funding,” Waldrop said, “I can’t help but imagine that our faculty will be successful in
bringing in a significant amount of additional funding.”
The perennial problem with transforming a new technology into commercial
success, however, has not changed. The
OTD can wait 10 to 12 years before a hot
new technology makes it in the market.
“The ‘wow’ takes a lot of years to incubate,” Innes said.
— Nancy E. Oates
Stasilon’s development was
featured in “A Better Bandage: We Can Do
That” in the November/December 2008
Review, available to GAA members at