UW Breaks Last Year’s Record With 18 New Companies Formed

University of Washington C4CBy Benjamin Romano, Xconomy Seattle

The University of Washington spun out 18 startup companies in the fiscal year just ended, a record level that serves as a powerful counterpoint to recent criticism that its commercialization practices have over-emphasized revenue generation at the expense of other priorities.

This year’s class of startups follows 17 spun out last year, which the university’s Center For Commercialization (C4C) says ranked the UW among the top three schools in the country for new company formation.

“From our record number of start-up companies generated and our No. 1 national ranking in licenses signed, to the doubling of patent applications filed annually, the University of Washington has become one of the top universities in the nation taking ideas to impact,” Linden Rhoads, who is stepping down after six years leading commercialization at the UW, said in a news release. “I recently announced that I’ll be returning to entrepreneurship, so it’s gratifying to have stayed long enough to see a second year of record results show that UW’s performance is sustainable and more.”

Rhoads is being replaced by Vikram Jandhyala, a professor and past chair of electrical engineering with experience forming, funding, and, recently, selling a startup company based on technology he developed at the UW.

“We’re not just spinning out more companies, but creating stronger start-ups with growth potential to contribute to our region’s economic health,” Jandhyala said in the release. His mandate as incoming vice provost for innovation is to better integrate entrepreneurship with the broader university curriculum, and encourage more encourage more involvement in commercialization by undergraduates and master’s students, as he told Xconomy in an interview last week.

Despite the record of success, not everyone is happy with how the UW is carrying out its commercialization efforts. Last year, UW President Michael Young convened an advisory committee on commercialization comprised of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, university faculty, and a startup attorney. The committee submitted its findings last fall, which Xconomy reported last week as the commercialization leadership change was announced.

Among other criticisms, the committee found fault with how the university’s commercialization efforts are structured and described a technology licensing process that can be unpredictable and unfriendly to entrepreneurs.

“The goals of technology commercialization are broader than revenues from IP licenses and should primarily be the diffusion of knowledge and innovation developed at the university and the contribution to economic development,” the report says.

When asked for comment from Young on the committee’s report, a university spokesman pointed to the news release in which Young says: “The University of Washington is becoming increasingly known for its culture of innovation and for the world class commercialization resources we provide to our UW entrepreneurs, who take ideas that are barely imaginable today and turn them into tomorrow’s inventive solutions. Their visionary achievements are improving people’s daily lives, here and around the globe.” [Paragraph added with response from UW.]

Here are the startups spun out of the UW in its 2014 fiscal year, along with brief descriptions of what they do from the UW:

AnswerDash—contextual question-and-answer systems to improve online help on Websites and mobile apps. Xconomy profiled AnswerDash in May.

Applied Dexterity—robotic assisted surgery

BluHaptics—control systems for remotely operated vehicles

Deurion—diagnostics and mass spectrometry products

Ennaid Therapeutics—cures for mosquito-borne diseases

Lodespin Labs—next-generation tracers for medical imaging

MarqMetrix—optical measurement devices

Medical Models—specialized medical imaging and 3D printing for depicting injuries and anatomical abnormalities

NaviSonics—novel catheter system for neurosurgeons

Oricula Therapeutics—medications to protect hearing and balance

PET/X LLC—aids in selection of targeted breast cancer therapies for individual patients

Polydrop—improves paints and coatings for aerospace and other advanced applications

Shockmetrics—non-invasive device to detect medical shock

Spark Medical—football helmet designed to reduce skull fractures and concussions

Stasys—device to rapidly measure blood coagulation in trauma patients

Taggpic—image recognition software focused on buildings and landmarks

VerAvanti—medical devices for visualizing blood vessel interiors

Universal Cells—gene editing in stem cells