Purdue ranks as top university in technology transfer, startup creation

April 20 2017

Purdue University’s strides in creating startups and moving innovations to the marketplace have earned it a top ranking from the Milken Institute in a report released Thursday (April 20).

Purdue ranks No. 1 in the Midwest, No. 1 nationally among public institutions without a medical school and No. 12 overall in the report, “Concept of Commercialization: The Best Universities for Technology Transfer.”

The report focuses on innovative activities that drive long-term economic growth demonstrated through patents, licenses executed, licensing income and startup creation. Based in Santa Monica, California, the Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank working to advance global prosperity.

“For the past four years, we have focused our efforts on creating the most supportive structure possible for our entrepreneurial faculty, students and staff,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “We have knocked down the barriers that often kept important Purdue-based research from reaching the marketplace in a timely way, and built what we believe to be the most friendly, conducive environment to ensure our research and the innovations that result reach their fullest potential.”

Purdue jumped from 39th in 2006, the last time the Milken Institute compiled a report on technology transfer data from academic research institutions. The University of Utah, Columbia University, University of Florida, Brigham Young University and Stanford University top the overall 2017 rankings.

Since 2014 Purdue has generated record-breaking numbers in technology transfer and commercialization activities with 76 startups created from patented university innovations. In the same time period, Purdue has nearly 500 technologies licensed and 460 U.S. patents issued. The university also is ranked 15th in the world among universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2015, according to a report by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.


Purdue graduate’s startup launches product to help increase children's physical activity

April 20 2017

A startup created by a Purdue graduate has launched a smartphone app and fitness-tracking device aimed at encouraging children to be more physically active.

OWL LLC co-founder and CEO Ryan Ma, a 2015 graduate of Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts, launched the product during the annual 5K Run/Walk for the Kids to benefit the Purdue chapter of Asha for Education on Saturday (April 15). OWL was one of the event sponsors.

“The technology consists of a wearable fitness tracking device that downloads data to the free app,” Ma said. “The app is a game involving a virtual pet owl that can be grown, fed and otherwise improved as the user generates fitness points while wearing the tracker. It’s designed to be attractive to children.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children with obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children has obesity.

“There are 70 million children in the U.S., and many do not get the physical activity they need to be healthy and alert,” Ma said. “Through the OWL fitness app, we’re hoping that we can assist in changing those alarming statistics.”


SPEAK MODalities named finalist for prestigious national business plan competition, best new product award

April 20 2017

SPEAK MODalities, a Purdue-affiliated company developing autism technology that helps communication and language development for children and families affected by severe, nonverbal autism and developmental disabilities, has been named a finalist for the eighth annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) and the 2017 Edison Best New Product Award.

The Edison Award winners will be announced at the 2017 Edison Awards Gala today (April 20) in New York. Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition finalists will travel to Philadelphia’s Penn campus on Tuesday (April 25) to pitch their ventures to investors, researchers, and practitioners.

SPEAK MODalities, a startup commercializing the autism technology apps SPEAKall!® and SPEAKmore!®, was selected as one of 11 for the EBPC Venture Path finalists through a judging crowd-sourced with teachers, investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers. The company is the only finalist from Indiana. The EBPC features multiple cash prizes totaling $120,000.

“The EBPC is considered the largest competition of its kind for education-related startups, so we are thrilled to be named a finalist,” said Oliver Wendt, co-founder of SPEAK MODalities and Purdue assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, and educational studies. “Being named a finalist for this competition shows the potential our startup has to discover new customers in the educational tech space and make an impact directly in the school system.”

The annual Edison Awards competition honors excellence in new product and service development, marketing, human-centered design, and innovation. The Edison Awards symbolize the persistence and excellence personified by Thomas Edison, while strengthening the human drive for innovation, creativity, and ingenuity.


Startup discovers email vulnerability that could impact up to a billion Internet users

April 19 2017

Spotlight Cybersecurity LLC, a Purdue-affiliated startup, has discovered a vulnerability in email account protocol that could impact up to a billion Internet users worldwide.

Spotlight Cybersecurity co-founder and chief technology officer Robert Morton, a Purdue doctoral candidate in information security in the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, or CERIAS, publicly released his findings on Tuesday, April 18, at CERIAS 2017. CERIAS is comprised of components from several Purdue departments—and is one of the largest cybersecurity research and education centers in the world.

Morton named the vulnerability “Ring-Road.” Visit Ring-Road for more information.

“We’re in discussions with international email service providers right now about this vulnerability,” Morton said. The discussions center on the scope of the vulnerability and the extent to which Ring-Road affects other products and services.

Morton discovered the vulnerability as part of a Purdue class project involving security research. Through Spotlight Cybersecurity, Morton developed an exploit that demonstrates how hackers could use the identified vulnerability to determine the number of characters being used in passwords for individual users’ email accounts. “If I know the number of characters being used, it’s much easier to hack into an email account,” Morton said.

“We are providing one major email service provider with an example of how someone could tangibly use this to hack into hundreds of millions of accounts,” Morton said. “That garnered enough support for them to start an investigation.”


Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund commits $400,000 to five startups

April 18 2017

Five Purdue-affiliated startups were each selected for $80,000 investments in the latest round of funding for Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund Gold Awards, officials announced Tuesday, April 18.

“The Purdue Foundry partnership with Elevate Ventures has really come into its own with the incredibly effective use of the state’s 21st Century Research and Technology Fund for investments in Purdue-bred companies commercializing world-changing technologies,” said John Hanak, Purdue Ventures managing director. “Over the past two years, money from this fund has been instrumental in moving forward over 44 companies commercializing Purdue technologies or otherwise working with the Purdue Foundry. This funding has been leveraged to help attract significant additional investments in these companies.”

With the additional funding announced Tuesday, the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund has now awarded $1.62 million to 44 Purdue-affiliated startups since the program’s creation in 2014.

“These five companies have moved on to the Gold Award level which is only achievable after receiving a Black Award. We were very impressed with the startups’ technology development and market growth potential,” said Chris LaMothe, Elevate Ventures CEO. “A primary objective for the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund is to increase entrepreneurial activities and commercialization of Purdue innovations. The depth and breadth of such activities we’ve witnessed just in the last two years are a strong testament to the program’s early success.”

Startup companies receiving these investments must meet certain criteria, which include being a Purdue Foundry client, founded by Purdue students, faculty or staff, and/or being based on intellectual property patented through the Purdue Research Foundation. Companies also are evaluated for the strength of market potential, operational viability and their leadership team.

The Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund is operated jointly by officials from the Purdue Foundry and Elevate Ventures.


Newly developed insecticide and fungus combination could more effectively control, eliminate termites

April 18 2017

A new Purdue University-developed technology concept could provide pest control companies with a more effective way to control termites and prevent associated damage. The technology works by targeting the termite’s resistance genes that help the insect fight off a known fungus that can effectively eliminate termites.

“Termites damage approximately 600,000 homes in the U.S. each year,” said Michael Scharf, an associate professor and the O.W. Rollins/Orkin Chair in Purdue’s Department of Entomology, who developed the technology. “Understanding the small, wood-destroying insect’s biology and behavior can lead to more effective methods that are specifically targeted at termites to control infestation, prevent damage and potentially decrease the insects’ spread.”

Scharf said non-specific chemical insecticides are sometimes ineffective, or not preferred by some homeowners, and a method to target the termite’s genes to dismantle their defense mechanisms against fungus is needed.

“Termites have all these microbes living in their gut, like humans do. These microbes are able to help fight off a known pathogenic fungus that can infect termites and eliminate them,” Scharf said. “Some insecticides and drugs can kill some of the microbes that provide termites with resistance to pathogenic fungus, making termites more vulnerable to fungal pathogens. However, a more effective method is needed to target the termites.”

Scharf said the core of the technology is being able to target the termite’s resistance genes and make the termites susceptible to the fungus.

“If you try insecticide or fungus by itself, in really low doses, nothing happens,” he said. “Although the insecticide has been in use for a long time, it has never been used in combination with the fungus. Through testing we found that once you combine the two together, all the termites were eliminated.”


Purdue technology shown to extend digital device battery life advances with $750,000 NSF grant

April 18 2017

A Purdue technology shown to extend battery life of digital devices has received federal funding to further develop the technology that could impact billions of devices including smartphones, notebooks and smartwatches across the world.

Mobile Enerlytics LLC was awarded a National Science Foundation SBIR Phase II grant of $749,998 to develop the mobile app industry’s first energy management solution to help app developers reduce battery drain, thereby, extending smartphone battery life for users. The company is based in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, Indiana.

According to App Annie, annual revenue in the mobile app industry is expected to more than double to $139.1 billion by 2021.

“While the number of apps is growing, digital device battery technology has barely advanced in the past decade,” said Y. Charlie Hu, CEO and co-founder of Mobile Enerlytics and professor of electrical and computer engineering in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “It will become increasingly important to manage battery use as more and more apps become available.”

The funding will help Mobile Enerlytics develop advanced capabilities of the company’s Eagle end-to-end app energy management solution, the first technology of its kind.


Autonomous sensor could aid in early detection of urinary tract infection

April 12 2017

Urinary tract infections could one day be diagnosed faster than ever before with an autonomous sensor technology being developed at Purdue University.

“Current testing relies on time-consuming and costly urine culture tests performed at medical facilities and on at-home testing using store-purchased dipsticks that generally have high false alarm rates,” said Babak Ziaie, professor of electrical and computer engineering in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Additionally, collecting urine samples for these methods can be challenging for infants and geriatric patients who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases. There’s also a privacy and dignity issue.”

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection in the body. For women, the lifetime risk of having a urinary tract infection is greater than 50 percent. While most urinary tract infections are not serious, some instances can lead to serious complications such as kidney infections.

“Once you detect a urinary tract infection in its early stage, it’s very easy to cure,” said team member Byunghoo Jung, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “You just need an antibiotic. Early detection is the key.”

Purdue researchers have developed a bandage-sized, disposable urinary tract infection sensor module with a urine-powered battery that can be embedded in a diaper. When it is exposed to urine, the battery provides power to the sensor circuitry. The sensor checks for nitrites, chemical compounds commonly associated with urinary tract infections, and wirelessly sends the result to a smartphone app that keeps the data log and sends the results to the patient, caregiver, and/or health-care network if required.

Several patents exist on similar technologies. However, none of them are autonomous systems.

“Ours is the only one that works fully autonomously,” Ziaie said. “Conventional methods require a certain level of patient or caregiver intervention.”

Researchers have created a prototype that has been tested with synthetic urine samples. Testing has shown the prototype to be more accurate than commercial dipsticks.

The autonomous feature of the technology could prove useful to patients who might not be aware of the symptoms of urinary tract infections or otherwise be unaware of the need to check for them. In such cases, urinary tract infections are difficult to detect in their early stages.


Purdue student startup hub names finalists for Boiler Business Competition

April 12 2017

Three Purdue University student-based startup companies have been named finalists to compete for $15,000 in prizes during the annual Boiler Business Competition, or the Boiler.

An annual seed accelerator competition hosted by the Anvil, the Boiler started in 2013 with a goal to seek and encourage entrepreneurship activities outside the classroom. The Anvil is a student-run startup co-space center adjacent to the Purdue campus.

Finalists were narrowed from an initial field of 30 competitors. Five semifinalist teams accepted through the initial pitch round each received $500. Two wild card teams each received $300.

“We’re very pleased to have so many outstanding competitors,” said Connor Van Ooyen, director of the Anvil. “There were many outstanding startups and it was tough to narrow down the finalists to just three.”

The three finalists will each receive $1,000 and pitch their business plans to a panel of angel investors and venture capitalists on Demo Day, at 4:30 p.m., April 28 at the Anvil, 320 North St., West Lafayette, Indiana. The first-, second- and third-place teams will receive $5,000, $3,000 and $1,500, respectively.


InnovateHER competition at Purdue gives entrepreneurs a chance to help women, families

April 11 2017

Purdue and Greater Lafayette entrepreneurs can use their business ideas to make a significant impact on the lives of women and families and potentially compete for $70,000 in prizes through the 2017 InnovateHER Challenge.

Registration is now open for the competition at Purdue through the WomenIN initiative hosted by Purdue Foundry, a Purdue-based entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator. The InnovateHER Challenge was launched nationwide in 2015 by the U.S. Small Business Administration to highlight innovative products and services designed to assist women and families. The competition is sponsored locally by the Krannert School of Management’s Jane Brock-Wilson Women in Management Center and the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

Purdue alumni, students, faculty and staff; greater Lafayette community members; and members of the WomenIN initiative are welcome to apply. Participants have until April 30 to submit a two-page executive summary and 20-page business plan for their ideas to Entries will be judged based on their measurable impact on the lives of women and families,


for commercialization, and filling a need in the marketplace. The Purdue finalist will win $5,000 and a chance to advance to the national InnovateHER Challenge to compete for cash prizes totaling $70,000.