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Duke Engineering Buoys Banner Year for Duke Entrepreneurial Efforts

Record-setting year includes 32 issued patents, 11 licensing agreements and five new start-up companies from engineering faculty

It was a banner year for Duke’s Office of Licensing and Ventures (OLV), and Duke Engineering helped lead the charge.

According to Duke OLV’s 2017-18 annual report, Duke employees filed a record 329 invention disclosures and started 16 new companies, 15 of which are staying here in Durham and the Triangle. Continuing its trend of growth in these areas, the Pratt School of Engineering alone generated five new start-ups, 91 invention disclosures, 11 license/option agreements and 32 issued US patents.

Warren Grill, for example, was awarded three patents, including a method for generating energy-optimized waveforms for treating neurological disorders using deep brain stimulation. Charles Gersbach also helped secure two patents, including one on the genetic correction of mutated genes. Jungsang Kim successfully protected a design for a scalable modular quantum computing architecture. And Tuan Vo-Dinh patented a method for using gold nanostars to detect, image and treat cancer.

In other innovations well past the patenting stage, Duke-spawned companies raised $526 million in funding during the fiscal year. One recent start-up featuring a campus-wide collaboration between Pratt, Trinity and the School of Medicine called Element Genomics, which focuses on gene regulation and bioinformatics, was acquired by a Belgian pharmaceuticals company for $30 million in upfront and milestone payments.

Another recent startup founded by Larry Carin called Infinia ML empowers Fortune 500 companies to make smarter decisions and automate complex processes through the latest advances in machine learning. The company received an AI Breakthrough Award, which recognize the best companies, technologies, products and services in the field of Artificial Intelligence, for Best Machine Learning Company. Infinia also recently announced a partnership with Duke Engineering to integrate machine learning into the school’s entrepreneurial instruction.

Duke innovations were also licensed to outside interests. OLV negotiated 114 agreements, 25 of which are exclusive agreements. Licensing brought Duke $51 million in revenue during the fiscal year.

For Pratt researchers, this included Nimmi Ramanujam’s company Athoria Inc licensing technology for an inserter for speculum-free and self-examination for cervical cancer. And Adam Wax’s company Lumedica licensed handheld, low-cost optical coherence tomography devices.