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Donation to Purdue doubles tech transfer funding

March 16, 2007

The $100 million gift to Purdue University that’s scheduled to be announced this morning will generate enough income to double the university’s spending on technology transfer, the process of shifting laboratory discoveries into products that can be sold by companies.

Income expected to be created by the endowment from Mann Foundation for Biomedical Engineering is small in the overall scheme of university expenditures: about $5 million annually.

Yet, the endowment will fund about 40 people with expertise in fields ranging from product development to marketing. They will be charged with turning ideas into products that businesses can begin selling with little additional work.

The highly developed products will demand bigger royalties or purchase prices from companies. Fatter contracts in turn are expected to generate more income for the university—and speed medical products to health professionals who can improve peoples’ lives.

“We think the opportunity that has been given to Purdue is a very good one,” said Purdue President Martin Jischke. “We are quite willing to enter into it.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels also will be on hand for the announcement.

It is the largest research gift in the university’s history.

The Valencia, Calif., foundation, started by medical device entrepreneur Alfred Mann, wants to establish a dozen Alfred Mann Institutes by 2012. Purdue is the third university to embrace the concept after the University of Southern California and Technion University in Haifa, Israel.

The agreement is between Mann Foundation and Purdue Research Foundation, which oversees Purdue Research Park. Purdue and Mann Foundation each will have five members on the institute board, with Mann or its choice serving as chair.

Until now, Purdue Research Foundation has licensed technology to companies. Under Mann Institute, the Foundation will license a technology to Mann Institute, and Mann then will develop the product and market it to companies.

Purdue has committed to providing 30,000 square feet of space in Discovery Park, the new complex on the edge of campus where Jischke wants faculty and students from various disciplines to work together on projects.

The approach is unusual for universities, Jischke said, but Mann’s expertise in tech transfer will generate enough income for the university to more than make up for the 50-50 shared arrangement.

Mann said in a statement issued by Purdue that the rate of return on commercializing basic research and discoveries can be increased five-fold from the 1-percent royalties common to such contracts.

Virtually all the work will be conducted on medical discoveries. An initial rate of two projects per year will ramp up to six a year when the institute is in full operation.

Purdue demanded that Indiana businesses be given preferential treatment when a product is ready to be licensed or sold, Jischke said. The system could give a jolt to Indiana companies and ultimately create jobs.

The entire $100 million might be tapped within one or two years, or as long as 10 years, depending on tax considerations and other factors for Mann, Jischke said.

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