Colleges and Universities and Tech Transfer and Purdue University and Education & Workforce Development

Purdue ends $100M deal with research foundation

April 27, 2012

Purdue University has ended its dealings with a foundation that pledged a $100 million donation five years ago to help the school find commercial uses for its research.

Purdue officials announced that the university's research foundation was taking over the nonprofit group that the school created with the Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Biomedical Engineering.

The foundation has given $15.5 million to the Alfred Mann Institute for Biomedical Development at Purdue, also known as AMIPurdue, but Purdue and foundation leaders aren't explaining why they're parting ways, the Journal & Courier of Lafayette reported Friday.

"We are not down about it. We got $15 million in donations (from Mann), we own all the patents and have our own nonprofit," said John Hertig, executive director of AMIPurdue. "We are very excited. These changes will make it easier for us to work within the Purdue environment."

Purdue accepted the California-based foundation's offer in 2007 after other universities — including University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University — turned down similar proposals amid questions over the control of intellectual property rights to university inventions.

Among those issues was the Mann Foundation's insistence on deciding which of the schools' inventions were most ripe for commercialization, something the universities feared would conflict with their other research agreements.

Hertig said the foundation's donations to Purdue helped with development of 11 technologies in electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering, pharmacy and other areas. Purdue said four startup companies have taken those technologies into the commercial marketplace.

Details of the 2007 agreement aren't public because the contract was between two private groups — the Purdue Research Foundation and Mann Foundation.

David Hankin, the foundation's president, said in a statement that Purdue had been an exceptional partner.

"It's been five years, and there have been many changes in the world as well as in our foundation's focus," Hankin said.

Josh Powers, a professor of higher education leadership at Indiana State University, said frictions can arise in such agreements as university researchers might be concerned that a funding partner is influencing research, while a foundation or corporation may worry about seeing a return on its financial investment.

"There is generally this cultural tension of this incentive structure between privates and the colleges," Powers said.

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