University of Texas at Austin

Monday, August 29, 2011

UT Austin displays significant inventions for regents

Two of The University of Texas at Austin’s significant inventions were highlighted for the Technology Transfer and Research Committee of the University of Texas Systems Board of Regents at an Aug. 24, 2011 meeting.

Richard Miller, chief commercialization officer at The University of Texas at Austin.

Richard Miller, chief commercialization officer at The University of Texas at Austin.

Both inventions bring significant benefits to society and revenue to the university, said Richard Miller, the chief commercialization officer of The University of Texas at Austin.

One invention has provided manufacturers with safe, reliable and rechargeable batteries for a range of products from cell phones to hybrid vehicles.

The other returned an effective pain reliever to the market after it had been pulled because of abuse.

They are two of dozens of faculty-invented technologies the university has licensed in the past decade. Licensing revenue grew to nearly $26 million in 2010-2010 from less than $2 million in 1999-2000.

John Goodenough, battery technology pioneer.

John Goodenough, battery technology pioneer.

John Goodenough, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering, developed materials technology for lithium-ion batteries. A pioneer in finding materials for batteries, his decades of research have been recognized with the Japan Prize and the Enrico Fermi Prize.

“His technology is in the pocket of everybody in this room,” Miller told the committee and audience, referring to cell phones powered by lithium-ion batteries. The technology also is used in electronics from batteries from laptop computers to hybrid engine vehicles.

The technology has been licensed to Hydro-Quebec, a public utility in Canada. The agreement called for an upfront payment of eight figures and a double-digit percentage of royalty payments from the sublicenses, Miller said at the meeting.

About five companies have sublicensed the technology from Hydro-Quebec, according to Miller.

Demonstrating the scope of the university’s inventions, Miller turned from engineering to pharmacy.

James McGinity, pharmacy professor

James McGinity, pharmacy professor

James McGinity, a professor in the College of Pharmacy, developed a polymer that makes oycontin, a pain medication, tamper-proof.

The drug is a synthetic derivative of morphine. Problems arose when people crushed oxycontin pills into a powder and injected it into their bloodstream.

“It was taken off the market by the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) because it was such a huge problem,” Miller told the regents. “Drug addicts would break into pharmacies just to get this medication.”

McGinity’s development was to embed the drug into a polymer.

Taken orally, “It could only be released slowly as it went through the stomach and the intestinal tract,” Miller said. “So it’s tamper-proof.”

The tamper-proof oxycontin, sold through licensee Purdue Pharma, a privately held company based in Stamford, Conn., is the only version of the medication on the market, according to Miller.

The university receives a percentage of revenues on the sale of the drug.

“Not only are these generating a significant amounts of money but they both represent really important breakthroughs in their respective fields,” Miller said.

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