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Amid talk of combined UM, Morgan State seeks tech funding

A sweeping proposal to create a single University of Maryland with campuses in Baltimore and College Park includes millions of dollars to support the commercialization of university research.

Now, Morgan State University wants a piece of the action, too.

The historically black research institution is asking lawmakers for $3 million to support its Office of Technology Transfer, which helps students, faculty and staff guide their research discoveries to the marketplace.

Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden, D-Baltimore City, said Morgan officials approached him for help after a hearing on the University of Maryland bill, which includes an ongoing, $4 million per year allocation to support the efforts of a new, Baltimore-based center for commercializing university research.

“We are a research institution as well,” McFadden, a Morgan graduate, told The Daily Record Thursday. “We need some enhancements as well.”

A joint effort from the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park, known as UM Ventures, provides seed capital and other assistance to researchers and emerging university-based companies

Supporters of uniting those schools, noting that UM Ventures has helped the two increase tech transfer by 100 percent over the past five years, want to strengthen that collaboration and help bring more new tech companies to Baltimore.

McFadden said Morgan, which is not part of the University System of Maryland but is still a public university, should get some of the same assistance. His bill requires the governor to allocate $1 million per year to Morgan from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2020 to support commercializing research.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is engaged in an ongoing dispute with lawmakers over b bills that mandate state spending, and has proposed a bill to limit such spending in the future.

The bill also calls for Morgan’s Board of Regents to develop a plan to enhance the university’s existing tech transfer office, consulting with the Maryland Technology Development Corp., or TEDCO, as needed. Each year, starting this December, the Board of Regents would report to the governor and lawmakers on the plan’s progress.

In January, Morgan was granted its first-ever full patent for new technology; Professor Kadir Aslan developed a protein crystallization technique that could advance the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the university.

Last year, Morgan broke ground on a $79 million academic and research facility, projected to open in 2017, that university leadership hopes will help attract additional research funding.

McFadden’s bill is scheduled to get a hearing before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday.