UChicago startups show returns from federally funded research

A new report demonstrating the link between federally funded basic research and economic growth highlights three University of Chicago startup companies among its 100 "success stories."

Released May 11 by The Science Coalition, "Sparking Economic Growth: How federally funded university research creates innovation, new companies and jobs" traces the origins of 100 companies to breakthrough research conducted at a university and sponsored by a federal agency.

The UChicago companies included in the report are:

  • Chromatin, Inc., based in Chicago, which develops and markets innovative technologies and products that benefit the agricultural, energy, chemical, nutritional and pharmaceutical sectors
  • Integrated Genomics, based in Arlington Heights, which provides a full range of products and services to support research in microbial genomics, biochemistry and gene expression.
  • Maroon Biotech, based in Chicago, which develops a new category of pharmaceuticals called surfactant chaperones. This technology has the capability to restore structure and viability to cells disrupted by physical and chemical trauma.

"Investment in basic research and development and translation of discoveries into world-changing technologies is the engine that drives economic growth and the key to U.S. competitiveness," said Donald H. Levy, Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories. "The promise of tomorrow rests on continued support of the nation's top research institutions now and in the future."

The report illustrates the substantial economic benefits to the United States when companies are created as a result of discoveries in federally funded university laboratories. Chromatin is an example of this return on investment.

"Federally funded research has been instrumental to developing technologies at Chromatin that can increase crop yields and accelerate the development of new crop products," said Daphne Preuss, President and CEO of Chromatin, in the report. "As a result of funding from the DOE, NIH and Department of Commerce, Chromatin's technology is being tested by leading multinational companies, and Chromatin is partnering with several emerging technology companies to create crops that sustainably meet growing global demands."

The success stories highlighted in the new report are just a small sample of the many companies that have sprung from the discoveries of federally funded, university-based research The research at the root of these companies provides employment for researchers, technicians and support personnel, and serves as a training ground for future generations of scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs.

As the report points out, companies spun out of research universities tend to perform better than typical startups. Host universities often act as incubators, helping transition an idea from concept to reality. Since 1987, UChicago has started-up 48 companies and generated more than $91 million in revenue from tech-transfer activities.

"UChicago discoveries have made a major difference in the lives of millions of people," said Alan Thomas, Director of UChicagoTech. "Our success stories, combined with those of other top research institutions in the area, demonstrate unarguably that the Chicago region is a major center for innovation and economic growth."

The Science Coalition is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization of 45 of the nation's leading public and private research universities, including the University of Chicago. It is dedicated to sustaining the federal government's investment in basic research as a means to stimulate the economy, drive innovation and secure America's global competitiveness. The Sparking Economic Growth report is available at www.sciencecoalition.org/successstories/ along with a database of companies created from federally funded university research.