DURHAM – Duke University’s Office of Licensing and Ventures says its fiscal 2020 year was record-setting, from patents to licensing fees – and the Duke New Ventures program helped launch 17 startups.

Twenty-six of the invention disclosures were Covid-related ideas.

Significantly, revenue from Duke technology soared to $65 million, up from $58 million in fiscal 2019.

“Another record year further demonstrates the innovative culture of faculty and staff at Duke,” said Robin Rasor, executive director of OLV. “These collaborative and multidisciplinary ideas have resulted in more inventions moving out of the lab and onto the market.”

As for startups, Rob Hallford, the director of Duke New Ventures, pointed out:

“Durham and the Triangle remain a great place to start a high-tech company,” said Rob Hallford, the director of DNV. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen strong, investable startups in the emerging fields of gene therapy, vaccine manufacturing, quantum computing, AI, and more, there is a lot of potential for a start-up to stay here and grow.”

Some facts noted by DNW:

  • The Duke New Ventures (DNV) program helped to create 17 new start-ups this year, bringing the total to nearly 160 new companies created since the tech transfer office was formed in 1986
  • Ninety percent of Duke’s startups in the last three years have stayed in North Carolina, including 15 new FY 2020 start-ups.
  • DNV Venture Day and Investor Day resulted in several start-up companies working towards term sheets
  • Duke-hatched companies amassed $270 million in investment
  • More than $35 million of that $270 million staying in North Carolina this past fiscal year

The Office of Licensing & Ventures (OLV)is responsible management of innovations resulting from Duke research – “from creation, to feasibility and marketing, to protection, and on into licensing to commercial partners, for both startups and existing companies,” the university notes.

The startups

Start-up What they do School Inventor
Hydrean A mindful tool designed for use by anyone, anywhere, and anytime. Its tactile features link to simple prompts that guide your awareness towards intentional living Trinity Michael Klien
Xilis Next-generation micro-organosphere technology for precision cancer therapy SOM Xiling Shen, David Hsu
LVM Small molecule therapeutics for treatment of epilepsy SOM Jim McNamara
Upstream Biotechnology Developing broad-spectrum disease-resistant crops to eliminate pesticide use, reduce production costs, and increase crop yield Trinity Xinnian Dong
Tumult Labs Algorithm and software platform that systematically de-identifies data such that original data cannot be reconstructed Trinity Ashwin Machanavajjhala
Qatch Microfluidic instrumentation that prescreens injectability and manufacturability of biopharmaceutical drugs to de-risk the preclinical phase in the drug development process Pratt Zehra Parlak
InSoma Bio Protein matrix to stabilize autologous fat grafts Pratt Stefan Roberts, Tosh Chilkoti
Tellus Therapeutics Developing novel small molecules derived from human maternal breast milk for the treatment of newborns with perinatal brain injury SOM Eric Benner
Quadridox Software to simulate X-ray scanner performance Pratt Joel Greenberg, Michael Gehm
Avalo Biosciences Enhancing crop breeding with gene discovery, powered by machine learning Trinity Mariano Alvarez, Brendan Collins
SafineAI Tunable fluorescent labels for flow cytometry and other applications Pratt Roark Horstmeyer
Immcure High throughput genetic modifications via CRISPR SOM Qi-Jing Li, Xiao-Fan Wang
Simbuka Developing a low waste incinerator for feminine hygiene products Pratt Edgard Ngaboyamahina
Pluto Health Software to facilitate consent for participants in clinical trials SOM Eric Peterson, Kevin Monroe
Calla Health Foundation Centered on sustainably improving women’s access to cancer prevention for global impact Pratt Nimmi Ramanujam
ValanBio New antibiotic that kills bacteria by inhibiting a particular enzyme involved in the synthesis of bacterial outer membrane SOM Eric Toone, Pei Zhou
Skincheck360 Minimizing the risk of wrong-site skin cancer surgery by utilizing smart devices and computer vision technology SOM Jigar Patel


“Licensing to outside interests, OLV negotiated 105 license agreements, 29 of them exclusive,” the university said.

“In addition, there were 27 option agreements signed, which paves the way for next year’s licenses. The office filed a record 455 U.S. patent applications, up from 360.”

Duke University graphic