Brains Bring Bounty: Louisiana Benefits From LSU AgCenter Intellectual Property

Linda Benedict, Reed, Patrick  |  1/6/2006 9:24:35 PM

Patrick Reed

A robotic boat that scares birds from catfish ponds, a rice variety resistant to herbicides, genetically modified chickens that lay eggs containing pharmaceutical ingredients, a dyeing process that incorporates precious metals such as gold into fabric, a jerky-like product created from yogurt, and a chemical found in ordinary ballpoint pen ink that termites will follow to a toxic compound – these are just a few of the inventions that the LSU AgCenter’s Office of Intellectual Property manages.

Intellectual property is creativity with commercial value. This includes copyrighted property such as literary or artistic works and “ideational” property such as patents, business methods and industrial processes that arise from abstract, conceptual thinking. In a recent report to the LSU System, an auditor of LSU’s technology transfer activities referred to the AgCenter’s Office of Intellectual Property as the “crown jewel” of the LSU System. We earned that moniker because of our successful activities in patenting inventions, licensing these inventions to outside businesses and receiving income from these businesses as a result of their sales. The portion of this money that comes to the AgCenter is used to fund additional research.

Technology Transfer Takes Off

Universities actively became involved in technology transfer after Congress passed the Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act, more commonly known as the Bayh-Dole Act, in 1980. Before this legislation, federal agencies rarely permitted universities to own the inventions created with federal funds. Instead, the agency retained ownership and made these inventions available through nonexclusive licenses to anyone who wanted them. Companies were understandably unwilling to license these inventions and invest additional money into further research and development unless they had some protection from competitors who could market the same product. As a result, the government remained unsuccessful in attracting private industry to license government-owned patents. Although taxpayers were supporting the research, they were not benefiting from commercial products or the economic development that would have occurred.

The 1980 legislation, however, changed the policy and allowed universities and businesses to own inventions they created with federal funding and to be responsible for the commercialization process. Economic stimulation would occur through universities’ licensing new inventions to businesses that would, in turn, manufacture the resulting products in the United States.

Getting Technologies to Market

We actively protect intellectual property and transfer these technologies to the marketplace for the benefit of both the AgCenter and the state of Louisiana. Royalties from the sale of a successful product or process are distributed to the inventors or developers of the licensed technology and to the AgCenter to be funneled back into additional research.

The Office of Intellectual Property evaluates research results to determine marketability. We routinely deal with patents, plant variety protection certificates, trademarks, service marks and copyrights. Our office sees a diverse collection of creative ideas.

Louisiana benefits directly from the protection and commercialization of AgCenter research when the fruits of faculty labors become products available to consumers. Stellar examples of money-making inventions at other universities include Gatorade, the sports drink developed at the University of Florida, and one of the world’s most successful cancer drugs Taxol, which researchers at Florida State University found a cheaper way to manufacture.

By excluding others from being able to use these licensed technologies, a university allows an industrial partner the ability to further develop and market a product without excessive competition. This exclusionary right allows these companies to justify the expense of marketing and commercialization when they bear the risk of licensing and developing early-stage technologies.

AgCenter Examples

When an existing commercial partner cannot be found to license a promising technology, the AgCenter has the option to work with a newly formed, or startup, company that can build its new business around the AgCenter technology. Startups have the potential for creating high-paying, technical jobs within Louisiana and building the state’s reputation for entrepreneurship. The AgCenter has played a role in creating more than 10 startup companies, most of which are incorporated in Louisiana. These include:
  • TransGenRx, based in Baton Rouge, a biotechnology company working to produce pharmaceutically relevant proteins in chicken eggs. Ideally, biological products used in medicine produced in this manner will provide cost-effective manufacturing solutions to the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries.
  • Impediatus Biolytic of Louisiana, based in Baton Rouge, has licensed from the AgCenter a biocide that can kill harmful microbes, such as anthrax spores and salmonella in chickens.
  • University Products, also based in Baton Rouge, produces a vaccine effective in fighting anaplasmosis, a serious disease in cattle.
By reaching out to the business community, our institution is creating new industries in Louisiana, providing farmers with superior plant varieties and helping create new jobs.

Patrick Reed, Office of Intellectual Property Associate, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.

(This article appeared in the fall 2005 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
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