University News

UCLA among the nation’s best for commercializing campus research

Milken Institute report notes strong positive impact on Los Angeles economy

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Eric Hoek
Don Liebig/UCLA

Eric Hoek, UCLA professor of environmental engineering, holds a vial of nanoparticles (left) and a piece of his revolutionary new desalination membrane.

UCLA is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to the number of startup companies launched as a result of campus research, according to the rankings by the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank based in Santa Monica. The report, published today, also ranks UCLA No. 15 overall when it comes to commercializing university technology.

This represents a jump of 30 spots since 2006, which was the last time the index was produced. The report is based on data provided by the Association of University Technology Managers annual licensing activity survey, and specifically uses four-year averages (2012–2015) for four key indicators of technology transfer success: patents issued, licenses issued, licensing income and startups formed.

A total of 225 American universities and research institutions were ranked. Among them were UC San Diego (No. 20), UC Davis (No. 41), UC Berkeley (No. 53), UC San Francisco (No. 54), UC Irvine (No. 64), UC Santa Barbara (No. 83), UC Riverside (No. 120) and UC Santa Cruz (No. 152).

“We’re excited to learn about these results,” said Amir Naiberg, associate vice chancellor of the UCLA Technology Development Group and CEO and president of UCLA Technology Development Corporation. “The entrepreneurial culture at UCLA and the relationships TDG builds with investors will continue to drive the local economy and benefit the public with cutting edge products.” 

From 2012–2015, UCLA was issued an average of 96 patents and 31 licenses annually. Average licensing revenue earned during each of these years was $38.5 million. In addition, on average, 19 startup companies were formed each year.  

These figures continue to grow as the UCLA Technology Development Group further identifies the early stage marketing potential of UCLA research and forges relationships with industry partners. In the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, 121 U.S. patents were issued, 114 new inventions were licensed, licensing revenue totaled $65.9 million and 21 startups were launched.

“UCLA has been a premier research institution for many decades, but its increased focus on commercialization has benefited the entire L.A. economy,” said Ross Devol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute and report co-author.

In addition to products, devices and therapies that benefit the public, these companies create jobs and contribute to the local economy. A 2013 economic impact study produced by UCLA found that UCLA startups created more than 4,400 jobs resulting in $295 million in employee compensation and $108 million in federal, state and local tax revenue annually, and contributed a total of $1.1 billion to the economy each year.

“We’re extremely proud of the strong technological and scientific advancements that are discovered at UCLA, which have such a large direct societal and economic impact,” said Thomas Lipkin, head of new ventures for the UCLA Technology Development Group.

Among the more visible examples of UCLA discoveries that have been commercialized to benefit the public:

  • A telemedicine microscopy platform that captures images using a technology named Lenseless Ultra-wide-field Cell Monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging, or LUCAS. With this computational approach, the microscope can be miniaturized so that it fits on most cellphones, while remaining inexpensive enough for widespread use in developing countries. Samples of blood and saliva can be loaded onto single-use chips that easily slide into the side of the cellphone microscope and can be used to monitor diseases like HIV or malaria and to test water quality in the field after a major disaster like a hurricane or earthquake. This technology led to the creation of a UCLA startup.
  • The nicotine patch, which is credited with saving the lives of thousands of smokers. Patented by UCLA in 1990, and then introduced as a prescription drug in 1991 and as an over-the-counter medication in 1999, the patch transmits low doses of nicotine into the bloodstream and reduces smokers’ craving for nicotine. Numerous studies have indicated that nicotine patches roughly double the success rate of people attempting to quit smoking.
  • A water filtration and desalination membrane that produces high-purity water with lower energy consumption and that lasts longer, stays cleaner and does not become clogged with impurities. The technology, which helped launch a UCLA startup company that was later acquired by LG, is made up of specially designed nanoparticles embedded within the membrane. The nanoparticles soak up water like a sponge but repel contaminants such as dissolved salts, industrial chemicals and bacteria.
  • UCLA has also introduced numerous other advances, all of which are managed by the UCLA Technology Development Group.
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