Aside from the royalties and extra bragging rights, recent news that the University of California once again beat out other U.S. universities for the most patents in a year has UCSB researchers and students pushing for even more chances to license their ideas.
Contributing to the 390 patents for the entire UC system, UCSB was awarded 38 new patents in 2005. This is the 12th year in a row that the UC has recorded the most patents out of the nation’s universities. Currently, UCSB scientists are working on a variety of new patentable advances, ranging from improved blood-clotting agents to rapid diagnostic tests for diseases.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, UC received 390 patents in 2005, topping MIT’s 136 and Stanford’s 90. The number of patents awarded to UCSB rose from 22 in fiscal year 2002 to 38 patents in fiscal year 2005.
Medical schools in the UC system had the most patents: In fiscal year 2005, UCSD got 60 patents, UCSF had 52, UC Davis received 49 and UC Berkeley got 44.
Oren Livne, UCSB Office of Technology & Industry Alliances associate director, said the campus’ increase in patents was due to faculty becoming more inspired and more experienced with the patent process.
“Researchers have seen successful results and are motivated to get more of their work patented,” Livne said. “Those who have gotten their work patented are also able to help the new incoming generation of researchers succeed.”
In fiscal year 2004, UCSB received $857,000 in royalties and fees from patents, and the amount of money and patents the university has gotten has been increasing since then. Paul Desruisseaux, associate vice chancellor for public affairs, said he was impressed with the number of patents UCSB registered, but he said he was not surprised by the faculty’s accomplishments.
“We’re a leading research university, and that’s what they do.” Desruisseaux said.
As part of UCSB’s Technology Management Program, senior business economics alumnus Alon Raphael received a patent for a diagnostic system that tests a patient’s blood for multiple diseases using just one sample, and delivers results in just a few minutes. Before this innovation, patients would have to take multiple tests and doctors would have to send the sample away to a lab.
“Imagine a box that can perform any diagnostic test rapidly, inexpensively and in the doctor’s office,” Raphael said.
Dr. Bruce Altrock and Dr. Dan Dorion are Raphael’s advisers for the TMP competition, which will be held this spring. Raphael’s project – which led to the founding of his company, Tamarisc Diagnostics – is up against four other groups in the competition.
Raphael said he was very grateful for the program’s support in getting the patents.
“They have helped turn a lab vision into a market reality,” Raphael said.
In the Chemistry Dept., professor Galen Stucky and his assisting graduate students Todd Ostomel, Qihui Shi and April Sawvel received a patent for modifying a material that stops severe bleeding for long periods of time, most directly helping wounded patients that are far from medical treatment.
Ostomel said the group’s project was an improvement to existing U.S. Navy technology. The Navy developed an inorganic material called QuikClot to temporarily treat serious wounds, but the reaction between QuikClot and water in the blood could create too much heat and cause serious burns, he said.
In the Navy’s technology, calcium ions were used to create the material. Stucky’s group, however, found a way to replace the calcium ions with silver ions, which leads to less heat output as well as faster clotting of the wound.
In addition, Stucky’s research team got a second patent for developing a bioactive glass material that does a better job at clotting blood than its first patent, and the team hopes to formulate this technology to aid in bone repair.
Stucky’s group is collaborating with professor Song-I Han in the Chemistry Dept., associate professor Patricia Holden from the Bren School, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), and Hasan Garan at Harvard Medical School.
“By working in collaboration, you get that much more greater projects in the end,” Ostomel said.
UCSB’s encouragement of interdisciplinary work has led to greater success in the lab, Ostomel said.
“Professors here are very open to let students migrate between labs,” Ostomel said. “At other schools, I felt more secluded.”
Most of the patents UCSB receives tend to come out of the Engineering Dept., but Livne said this trend is changing.
“Other areas are beginning to pick up too, like the life sciences,” Livne said. “The field is getting more and more important to the campus.”
Victoria Broje, a graduate student under Dr. Arturo Keller, has been working in the Bren School. She has a provisional patent for a new method of cleaning up oil spills.
The conventional way to clean a spill employed the use of a large, mechanical skimmer with a rotating oil recovery unit, Broje said. The rotating unit would not get most of the oil, and much of it would go back into the water. She said her research focused on figuring out the best configuration for the recovery unit.
“My goal was to increase surface area and ability to scrape 100 percent of the recovery unit,” Broje said.
Broje has developed new technology that is much more efficient than conventional methods, and also less expensive. Her method can also be used in industries such as food and mining.
“It can be used with any liquids with different viscosities,” Broje said.
Broje said she had much appreciation for UC interdisciplinary atmosphere.
“The UC is a very productive environment to work in,” Broje said. “I collaborated with the mechanical engineer department, material engineers, and people who study adhesion science. We all get together to solve an environmental issue.”