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TEDCO used $4.2 million to help commercialize university research last year

Arti Santhanam, executive director of the Maryland Innovation Initiative. (File photo)

Arti Santhanam, executive director of the Maryland Innovation Initiative. (File photo)

A TEDCO program designed to help universities turn research into commercial activity funded seven startups and 26 technology assessments during the last fiscal year, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation announced.

TEDCO used $4.2 million through the Maryland Innovation Initiative last year to help commercialize technology at Maryland’s research universities.

“We take a specific approach of moving those technologies into the commercial space,” said Arti Santhanam, executive director of the Maryland Innovation Initiative. “We recognize that the universities find this to be a unique program that helps them figure out which technologies have potential.”

TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative helps university researchers determine whether their technology could be the start of a successful company and then assists some of those researchers in starting their company.

It is part of a collaboration between the state and Maryland’s five participating research universities: Johns Hopkins University; Morgan State University; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and University of Maryland, College Park. The partnership was formed in 2012.

Since the Maryland Innovation Initiative was launched, it has used $33 million and spun out 83 startups. Those startups have received $272 million in follow-on funding; seven of the 83 either were bought or went public. 

The initiative assesses all technology research at universities, without any bias toward a particular field like biotech or computer science.

This year’s seven funded companies included a range of technologies. The companies were:

  • Magic Blue, out of the University of Maryland, College Park, which developed a skin care line using methylene blue;
  • Renalert, out of Johns Hopkins, which provides early detection of the onset of acute kidney injury;
  • Gardner Industries, out of UMBC, which developed The Substrate Cage, tools that help researchers make real-time measurements of microbial growth and/or enzyme activity;
  • Mind-X Corp, out of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is combining neurotechnology, augmented reality and artificial intelligence to create a ‘look-and-think’ interface for spatial computing applications;
  • Sonoval, out of Johns Hopkins, which is developing an anti-cancer treatment for T-cell lymphomas and major solid tumors;
  • ActiveCharge, out of UMBC, which is a system that can harvest wasted vibrational and/or kinematic energy and convert it into electrical energy for use in wind turbines; and
  • OncoSTING, out of Johns Hopkins, which is developing bladder cancer therapies using a combination of treatments.

Magic Blue and Mind-X are women-led companies, and Renalert and OncoSTING are minority-led firms, Santhanam said.

In addition to funding these companies, the Maryland Innovation Initiative also helps researchers figure out whether their idea could be something worth forming into a company or licensed to a larger company.

The initiative looks for strong intellectual property. Criteria include whether there is commercialization potential and whether there is a market for the technology.

“We don’t fund anything that’s just an idea on a paper,” Santhanam said. “We are looking at commercially promising technologies.”

Overall the program has a 30% conversion rate at turning technologies into startups, a rate Santhanam said is among the best in the country.

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