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Examples of How Federally Funded Research Fuels Economic Growth

Posted October 31, 2013

University of Rochester start-up companies are among those highlighted in a new national report by The Science Coalition that identifies 100 companies that trace their roots to federally funded university research.

The report, titled “Sparking Economic Growth 2.0: Companies Created from Federally Funded Research, Fueling American Innovation and Economic Growth,” highlights Koning Corporation and Science Take-Out, two University of Rochester spin-offs that have received more than $19 million in total funding support from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

“Federally supported research is the lifeblood of our nation’s knowledge-based economy,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. “These companies are just a few examples of the continued need for strong federal investment in science research and education as a means to propel technological innovation, maintain our nation’s competitive advantage, and create jobs for the 21st century.”

University-based scientific research is jeopardized by the current funding environment. Federal funding for R&D has been on a downward trend for the past decade, with funding levels in 2013 reaching historic lows. Sequestration, which began in March 2013, is set to run through 2021 and will squeeze an additional $95 billion from federal research budgets over this period. This national disinvestment in science will have significant consequences. As the Sparking Economic Growth 2.0 companies illustrate, research and the transformative discoveries that flow from it often require sustained funding over many years to yield results.

Koning Corporation has developed a novel medical imaging technology to detect breast cancer.

The company’s cone beam computed tomography system, known commercially as the Koning Breast CT (KBCT) scanner, combines the advantages of digital x-ray with computed tomography to produce three-dimensional pictures without having to compress the breast tissue. The company – which is based in High Tech Rochester’s Lennox Tech Enterprise Center incubator – has received the go ahead European Union to sell its scanners and is pending Food and Drug Administration approval.

“Koning’s breast scanner is another example of the University of Rochester’s push to translate federally funded medical science into useful patient care innovations,” said David Conover, M.S., director of Research and Development for Koning Corporation. “This technology could potentially revolutionize the detection and treatment of breast cancer – the most common and deadly cancer in women – and it could not have been developed without the sustained support the Medical Center and the company received from the NIH and Department of Defense.”

Science Take-Out develops, manufactures, and sells prepackaged hands-on science activity kits designed for use by individual or small groups of students. The kits cover numerous topics in high school biology and middle school life sciences. Each kit contains all the materials and instructions needed to complete the laboratory activity, do not require any special laboratory equipment, and can be used in any educational setting. Science Take-Out’s kits are in use in almost every state in the country and in numerous international schools.

“Science Take-Out exists, in great measure, due to the support the Medical Center and the company received from the NIH for science education,” said Dina Markowitz, Ph.D., a professor of Environmental Medicine and president of Science Take-Out. “These investments have created a company that has not only experienced tremendous growth, but one that will also serve to attract more students to careers in science.”

As the Sparking Economic Growth 2.0 report illustrates, university research and the companies that emerge from this activity are a driving force behind much of the innovation in the United States. Since private industry conducts relatively little basic research today, the new ideas and technologies produced at research universities are essential to U.S. industry and its ability to compete globally.

The University of Rochester is a case and point. Over the last five years, the University has received more than $2 billion in research funding, the bulk of which has come from the federal government. This funding supports leading research programs in the life sciences, optics, imaging, engineering, and energy. To date, the University of Rochester has created 49 start-up companies, holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, and has more than 140 licensing agreements for its technologies.

The Science Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities, including the University of Rochester. The organization is dedicated to sustaining the federal government’s investment in basic scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, spur innovation, and strengthen America’s global competitiveness.

The new Science Coalition report is available for download (pdf). An accompanying database provides access to company profiles and allows users to sort companies by federal funding agency, university affiliation, type of innovation and other criteria.

Source: University of Rochester

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