Patents issued to Pitt innovators continue to climb

Despite the pandemic, a record 124 patents were issued to Pitt innovators during fiscal year 2020-21 and 17 startups launched from the University.

Pitt jumped eight spots in the ranking of universities worldwide granted U.S. utility patents, from 28th in calendar year 2019 to 20th in 2020, according to the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

Fiscal 2021 also was the strongest year in the University’s history for revenue from regular patent and licensing activity — $12.6 million — reflecting the increasing commercial success of Pitt-developed innovations.

“Fiscal 2021 is a year that few of us would be eager to repeat as we endured the pandemic restrictions and welcomed the vaccine rollout that has helped to begin restoring normalcy. Despite those challenges, it was a year of major accomplishments for Pitt innovators on and off campus seeking to make an impact on the world through the growth of their ideas and discoveries,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute.

Under the University’s new intellectual property policy, which was updated during the fiscal year, an increased portion of proceeds from new transactions are being shared by the innovators and their departments or institutes.

Chancellor’s Gap Fund

Another sign of the strength of Pitt’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem is the reauthorization earlier this year of the Chancellor’s Gap Fund, which provides grant of $25,000 to $75,000 for innovators with promising discoveries to explore the commercial potential of their ideas.

Proposals went through a multi-step process involving a team drawn from the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, as well as an internal faculty review board.

The three projects selected are:

  • Vanish Therapeutics, Inc. — Biodegradable Nerve Stimulator: Principal investigators are Trent Emerick, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine; Tracy Cui, Department of Bioengineering; Raj Kubendran, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • TVI — A software application system for clinicians to more safely manage blood pressure levels during surgery: Principal investigators are Michael Schnetz , assistant professor of Anesthesiology; and Aman Mahajan, Chair, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine

  • Universal SNAP-CAR T Cell Therapy: Principal investigator is Jason Lohmueller, assistant professor, Departments of Surgery and Immunology; and secondary is Alexander Deiters, professor, Department of Chemistry