Purdue University impacting lives: successfully delivering innovations to the public

June 6, 2022, 1:27 PM EDT

Brad Duerstock (center) professor of engineering practice in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and School of Industrial Engineering at Purdue University and CEO of Prehensile Technologies.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., June 06, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Universities impact
lives in their local communities through the success of their alumni, by
hosting educational and artistic events, and in employing residents.

They can impact lives around the world by commercializing intellectual
property (IP) discovered and developed by university faculty and staff; IP
consists of creations of the mind like inventions, artistic work, designs or

Purdue University IP makes the world a better place when it reaches the
public, and strategically helping the public is part of the mission of
land-grant universities like Purdue. Commercialization occurs when IP is
licensed either to an already established company or to a startup launched
specifically to bring that innovation to the market.

Managing Purdue University innovations – vetting them to determine their
impact, applying for federal and international protection, marketing and
licensing them – is the responsibility of the Purdue Research Foundation, a
private, non-profit foundation.

Purdue Innovation Excellence: OTC and Foundry Metrics

Brooke Beier is senior vice president of commercialization at the Purdue
Research Foundation. She leads the Office of Technology Commercialization,
whose experts receive invention disclosures from faculty, vet the inventions
to determine their market impact, apply to protect the IP and license it to
companies around the world.

Beier also oversees the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and
commercialization hub whose professionals work with Purdue innovators to
create and scale startups.

"PRF and Purdue leadership truly care about making sure Purdue discoveries
positively impact society. OTC and the Foundry are thrilled to be able to
support that mission," Beier said. "Purdue faculty have been exceptional in
disclosing their innovations, and our dedicated personnel have set
year-over-year records in licensing innovations."

In the eight years between fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2021, Purdue
faculty have disclosed more than 2,800 innovations to OTC. During that time,
more than 4,500 U.S. and international patent applications were filed to
protect Purdue IP; OTC received more than 1,500 U.S. and international patents
on those innovations. OTC's website includes a public-facing list of
innovations across more than a dozen categories available for licensing.

Over the past four years, OTC personnel documented year-over-year record high
levels for licenses and options signed to companies. For the past eight years,
more than 1,100 licenses and options were executed, covering more than 1,600

Since the Purdue Foundry was launched in 2013, more than 175 companies founded
from Purdue IP launched across several sectors, including energy,
pharmaceuticals, agriculture, life sciences and information
technology/Internet of Things. Those companies have generated $255 million in
funding from investments, grants and other sources; they also have developed
relationships with customers around the world.

The Purdue Foundry also makes strategic investments in startups within its
ecosystem, with a primary focus on startups that feature Purdue IP and a
Purdue lineage. Since it was formed, the Purdue Foundry has invested more than
$10 million through four investment funds it manages: Ag-Celerator, Elevate
Purdue Foundry Fund, Foundry Investment Fund and Purdue Startup Fund.

"These licensed technologies are impacting industrial sectors like
aeronautics, agriculture, biomedical engineering, computer technology,
education, electrical engineering, food and nutrition, medical and health,
micro- and nanotechnologies, pharmaceuticals and veterinary," Beier said.
"While we are thankful for the revenue that licensing agreements return to PRF
and the university, we are glad that these discoveries are put to use and
improving lives around the world through new entrepreneurs, serial
entrepreneurs and established companies alike."

The Assistive Technology Engineer: Brad Duerstock

Brad Duerstock is CEO of Prehensile Technologies, which he launched in 2014.
The company develops the RoboTable overbed table, the RoboDesk and custom
assistive technology solutions to increase independence and quality of life
for people with disabilities.

Duerstock also is a professor of engineering practice in the Weldon School of
Biomedical Engineering and School of Industrial Engineering at Purdue
University. He holds courtesy appointments in the Department of Basic Medical
Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Health
and Kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Duerstock is motivated to make a difference for people who can benefit from
assistive technology.

"Approximately 20% of the population has some type of disability that can lead
to mobility, sensory, cognitive or psychological impairments, which may be
improved by some type of assistive technology," he said. "However, the
individual impact of such assistance for independently or more efficiently
accomplishing an activity of daily living or a specific task is immeasurable.
A singular piece of assistive technology can make the difference in one's
ability to be employed, to live at home, or to maintain self-dignity."

The assistive technology industry is relatively small, Duerstock said. Most
companies operating in that sector focus on developing and selling devices
they created.

"There are not many opportunities to go to a company that even has similar
target consumers and say, 'Would you be interested in licensing this new
technology and further commercializing it as a product?'" Duerstock said.
"Even large companies that may be interested in acquiring new products are
pretty risk averse and really want something that has been first proven in the

The lack of opportunities coupled with Duerstock's desire to impact people's
lives led to commercializing his patented IP and launching Prehensile
Technologies. The Office of Technology Commercialization worked with Duerstock
and his team during the patent application process and with licensing the
technologies. The Foundry worked with his team to write a business plan.

"Of course, when I first thought about commercializing some of our research,
it started with a conversation with OTC about patent protection," he said.
"But I soon realized that if I really wanted our inventions to get into the
hands of those who would benefit from their use, then that would be a whole
other conversation.

"The Foundry has been instrumental for me in learning the business side of
things. At the beginning, I didn't even know the language used in the business
world. In addition to learning about entrepreneurship, the Foundry helped us
get in touch with local accountants, law firms and payroll agencies, which was
invaluable in establishing our company."

Duerstock said Prehensile Technologies has benefited from Purdue's vast
entrepreneurial network and resources by participating in I-Corps and student
business competitions. Duerstock himself participated in an experiential
learning entrepreneurial boot camp hosted by the Foundry. Additionally, some
of his students have opted to take entrepreneurial-focused classes at the

Duerstock said success ultimately will be measured by users being able to
access the innovative assistive technologies, whether it's through Prehensile
Technologies or other channels like sublicensing the technology or open-source
resources. Founding the company, however, has led to additional opportunities.

"Launching Prehensile Technologies has allowed us to further develop our
inventions, which has led to subsequent patents and the ability to apply for
Small Business Innovation Research, Small Business Technology Transfer and
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs grants," he said. "If we simply licensed
our technologies to other entities, we may not have had the opportunities for
further research and development of existing and affiliated products.

"As a startup company, we are able to explore the market and, in some cases,
have found we need to pivot our initial business strategy based on a more
informed understanding of our consumers' needs and wants."

Along with commercializing its innovative assistive technologies like the
RoboTable and RoboDesk, Prehensile Technologies recently participated as a
member of the EASI RIDER team in a U.S. Department of Transportation inclusive
design competition. Duerstock said the company, whose president and chief
technology officer is Dr. Jeffrey Ackerman, brought its experience designing
technologies for people with disabilities and technical expertise in assistive
technology prototyping.

"This design competition made us realize that Prehensile can also provide a
service in creating accessible interfaces for a wide range of systems within
transportation, health care, home and other environments," Duerstock said.
"This significantly broadens our outreach through greater engagement with the
disabled community and other industry partners. Grand societal challenges in
inaccessibility and, thus, promoting greater inclusion of people with
disabilities will not be solved by an individual piece of assistive technology
or organization. There needs to be collaboration between several stakeholders
with different assets in order to solve these big problems, whether it is
autonomous transportation, aging in place, equitable health care, etc."

The Serial Entrepreneur: Philip Low

Philip Low is the Presidential Scholar for Drug Discovery and Ralph C. Corley
Distinguished Professor of Chemistry — Biochemistry in Purdue University’s
Department of Chemistry. He also may be the most prolific and most successful
entrepreneur to license Purdue University IP.

Working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology
Commercialization, Low has received hundreds of U.S. patents on his research,
all of them within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. He has
founded seven startup companies and remains involved in running six of them.

"I've been very pleased with my interactions with OTC, which feels like part
of my team rather than a distant partner," Low said. "They have been essential
in the writing and submission of our patents and have been instrumental in
helping me start companies based on our technologies. They have also been very
helpful in licensing our innovations back into my companies when desired."

In alphabetical order, here are the seven companies Low started, the focus of
their innovation, their most recent news and Low's current roles with them.

  * Endocyte Inc. The company developed targeted agents that delivered radio-
    and chemotherapeutic drugs to malignant tissues and avoided healthy
    ones. Novartis acquired Endocyte in December 2018 and absorbed the company
    and many of its employees so that the company no longer exists.
  * Eradivir Inc. The company designs, synthesizes and tests targeted
    therapies for viral diseases, including influenza, HIV, hepatitis C and
    SARS. Its lead drug candidate is undergoing studies to prepare it for
    human clinical trials in 2023. Low serves as the company’s co-founder,
    director and chief science officer.
  * ErythroCure Inc. The company develops novel therapies for malaria and
    sickle cell disease. ErythroCure’s malaria treatment has been shown to be
    nearly 100% effective in helping to defeat the disease in just three days,
    according to the results of a Phase 2 clinical trial. Phase 3 clinical
    trials will soon be initiated in Vietnam and Thailand. Low serves as the
    company’s director and chief science officer.
  * MorphImmune Inc. The company targets and reprograms immune cells to treat
    cancers, autoimmune, inflammatory, traumatic and fibrotic diseases. It has
    raised about $17 million. The company has developed four major drug
    candidates; one may be introduced into human clinical trials by summer
    2023. Low serves as the company’s founder and director.
  * Novosteo Inc. The company designs and develops targeted therapies to
    accelerate the repair of bone fractures and treat various bone diseases.
    Cortexyme acquired Novosteo in May; the new company will operate under the
    name Quince Therapeutics Inc. Low serves as the company’s co-founder and
  * On Target Laboratories LLC. The company designs and develops
    tumor-targeted near-infrared fluorescent dyes that help cancer surgeons
    find and remove malignant lesions while avoiding damaging healthy tissue.
    The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of On Target
    Laboratories’ fluorescent dye to illuminate ovarian cancer. The company
    finished Phase 3 clinical trials to use the dye to illuminate lung cancer,
    and another dye to illuminate prostate cancer has completed Phase 1
    clinical trials. Low serves as the company’s co-founder and chief science
  * Umoja Biopharma. The company develops new approaches to treat cancer that
    retool a patient’s immune system to enhance the body’s natural capacity to
    fight cancer. The company raised $263 million in 2021 and has received
    approval to initiate Phase 1 clinical trials on its CAR T cell therapy for
    cancer in children. Low serves as the company’s co-founder and director.

Low's interest in launching startups is mainly motivated by the need to raise
the funds required to take his drug to a significant proof of concept and
attract industry attention in licensing it.

"It's difficult to get a drug company to run with your discoveries if you
haven't at least demonstrated a proof of concept. Unless you have documented
your discoveries in real people with real health problems, it’s not easy to
attract investors’ attention," Low said.

"This is the Valley of Death for biotech. It costs a lot of money to bring a
drug to a proof of principle in patients, but you can't elicit much interest
until you do. How do you raise the $100 million to $200 million required to
develop a drug to the point that it looks like it’s going to work in humans?
You have to start a company, raise money and then bring in venture capitalists
and even institutional investors to fund the studies required to demonstrate
its efficacy and safety in human patients.

"Once you're successful with one company, it becomes less problematic to raise
money for the next, and if you're successful there, then the next is even
easier. But right now, nothing is easy in this financial market. The biotech
market is below half of what it was a year ago. It's an awful time to try to
raise money. However, launching a company is my only way to make sure my
discoveries have a chance to help mankind."

Low said the objective to working with the Office of Technology
Commercialization — applying for IP protection, launching startup companies,
licensing innovations — is sending Purdue innovations to the public to do

"We've been very successful in doing that," he said.


  * Philip Low
  * Prehensile Technologies

Steve Martin
Purdue Research Foundation