OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Venture funding another step for dialysis technology, OSU research payoffs

06/17/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Home Dialysis Plus, Ltd., an Oregon-based company that has exclusively licensed key micro-scale technology from Oregon State University, has received a commitment to invest up to $50 million to help it further develop and commercialize innovative technology for home dialysis devices.

This is one of the most substantial venture investments in Oregon history. The commitment has been made by a global private equity firm, Warburg Pincus, and The Vertical Group, a venture capital firm.

University officials say these new systems are very promising and when they reach the marketplace could enhance patient care, create new high-tech jobs and be the most significant technology transfer success in OSU history.

The system uses micro-technologies developed by OSU and technology licensed from HP. It will allow kidney failure patients the ability to experience treatment in their own home.

The product and investment is another significant step for the technology transfer program at OSU, and recognition of several initiatives that are ultimately designed to bring new technologies, jobs and industries to Oregon, officials say.

“Advances such as this might not have been possible without key contributions from such entities as the OSU Venture Development Fund and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, both of which provided important gap funding support to help move fundamental advances toward commercial application,” said Brian Wall, director of the OSU Technology Transfer Office.

“This is also one of the biggest success stories to date for the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute at OSU, which is co-directed by Richard Peterson, to showcase the capabilities of microtechnology in a variety of areas,” Wall said. “We expect researchers from MBI and Home Dialysis Plus will continue to work side-by-side on this technology, while the institute works closely with other startup companies as well in collaborative research and equipment use.”

The latest step forward is also a reflection of OSU’s ability to provide more assistance to private industry, Wall said, and to take risks and have the resources necessary to move technology past many real-world obstacles and into commercial use. In addition to the OSU Venture Development Fund, a record level of technology transfer income – $2.7 million in the 2009 fiscal year – now flows to the university to support new programs and boost research. That’s triple the level of 10 years ago.

“In the businesses that we’re trying to help nurture, you often have to take greater risks to earn higher rewards,” Wall said. “When this results in new technologies and jobs – that’s good for Oregon and is a credit to all the work in past years that got us to this point. Our commitment now is to get more products, technologies and inventions out the door and into the marketplace.”

Other promising technologies and commercial advances are on the horizon, Wall said. Breakthrough discoveries in “transparent electronics” at OSU may soon find some of their first commercial applications in solar energy through a company, Xtreme Energetics, with systems they say can provide twice the efficiency of solar cells at half the cost as existing technology.

Another evolution of OSU research is the field of “passively safe” and modular nuclear energy technology that’s moving steadily toward commercial use through NuScale, an OSU spinoff that may soon be building nuclear reactors in a factory setting. These reactors are small, portable and offer safe, cost-effective nuclear energy options in innovative ways.

And OSU has applied for a patent on a discovery of a new strain of bacteria that can produce non-toxic, comparatively inexpensive “rhamnolipids” that may be able to help clean up some of the environmental pollutants associated with oil spills. With further research and development, this new bacterial strain could be of considerable value in the long-term cleanup of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, scientists say.

OSU’s overall research funding also benefits from increased collaboration with private industry, reaching a record $252 million in 2008-09 from all sources combined. These programs help support both fundamental and applied research, faculty salaries, and undergraduate and graduate student education.

OSU President Ed Ray has said he expects university research income to double by 2025, to approximately $500 to $600 million per year.