KU technology assists companies
From Lawrence Journal-World
By Caleb Nothwehr
Ted Turner and Pfizer Inc. may not have much in common when it comes to business. But the media mogul and pharmaceutical parent of Viagra are both capitalizing on technology generated at Kansas University.
During the past year, new companies and business advancements have emerged as a result of inventions originally patented by university faculty.
The Turner Broadcasting System Inc. was the first client of John Gauch, founder of the Lawrence-based company Veatros. Gauch, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at KU, founded Veatros after patenting a computer software called Vidwatch through the KU Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.
Veatros, born in the summer of 2002, specializes in marketing software that allows broadcasting companies to monitor how the programming they sell is used by the stations that buy it.
Gauch described the practical application of Vidwatch by saying when a broadcast company distributes a show such as "Friends," that company allows each television station a certain amount of time for airing commercials. By monitoring two different television signals simultaneously, Vidwatch helps ensure stations aren't using more commercial time than allotted.
Vidwatch has been on the market since its development in 1998, and Turner Broadcasting System has been a client since then, Gauch said. Veatros was formed last year in order to market Vidwatch internationally.
"It's a neat international company right here in Lawrence," Gauch said.
Another company that started as a result of a KU-generated patent is making significant progress toward developing computer monitors that offer three-dimensional viewing capability.
BioComp Systems Inc., founded in June 1996, was a startup company based on the technology invented through three KU patents issued in the early 1990s. BioComp is in the process of developing a "true 3-D display" computer monitor.
Current computer monitors utilize two dimensions. The display screens BioComp is developing will let users view objects in three dimensions, said Soma Chakrabarti, president and CEO of BioComp.
The company, based in Lawrence, expects to have a commercial-ready prototype by the end of this year, Chakrabarti said. Once developed, the technology will most likely be used by hospitals, schools and the military. It also might be used for oil exploration, she said.
"The military can use it in battlefield management and for target recognition," Chakrabarti said. The screens are not designed for home usage, but Chakrabarti said the technology might be available for recreational technology in the future.
"There are other applications ... like video games," she said.
Another company that attributes its birth to a KU-generated patent is Cydex,a pharmaceutical technology outfit in Overland Park.
The company saw success in the past year by gaining approval for its product, Captisol, from the Food and Drug Administration, and licensing it to Pfizer for two different products. Captisol, a product that increases water solubility in drugs, started after two KU pharmaceutical inventions were patented in the early 1990s.
Cydex is starting to see results from those patents. In June 2002, Cydex announced its first FDA-approved usage of Captisol with the Pfizer-brand drug, VFend, an antifungal medication. In July 2002, Pfizer introduced another drug that utilized Captisol: Geodon, an antipsychotic medication.
FDA approval is an important steps toward marketing Captisol to pharmaceutical companies, said Carl Strohmeier, vice president of corporate development.
"Whenever you have a new technology, the first question pharmaceutical companies ask is if the FDA is comfortable with it," Strohmeier said.
Cydex now employs 30 people and is starting to earn royalties from its product.
Technology officials at KU say they are pleased with the progress of the technologies that have developed. James Baxendale, executive director of technology transfer and intellectually property at Higuchi Biosciences Center, said developing notable technology was not easy.
Out of 10 patents, usually only two will see monetary success, while the others may not recoup the cost incurred in getting the patent, Baxendale said.
"It might be the best idea in the world, but there has to be a market for it," Baxendale said.
For more information, contact ITTC.