When universities license discoveries made by scientists to companies for commercialization, the whims of the marketplace determine the results. As with anything else in business, the odds of scoring a major financial hit are slight, but the payoff can be exceedingly large. This is especially true for the life sciences, where discoveries and patents in medicine and biology continue to produce the lion's share of revenues for universities and research institutions. Life science patents also contributed the most to overall research strength at US universities last year, outpacing discoveries in information technology and other fields.

The latest survey from the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM)1 reveals that US and Canadian universities, teaching hospitals, and research institutions generated nearly $1.1 billion (US) in royalties and fees from discoveries licensed to companies in fiscal year (FY) 2001, which ended June 30, 2001 (the most recent AUTM data available). The top...

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