Email this article to a friend

Texas Tech Awards Grants to Help Researchers Bring Projects to Patent Stage

Texas Tech awards funds to research projects focusing on a new drug.

Written by Sally Post

Now every student will have the opportunity to attend Texas Tech.

Research projects focusing on a new drug to help increase the effectiveness of antibiotics and a new turf grass suited for semi-arid regions have won financial support from Texas Tech University’s Office of the Vice President for Research.

The grants, through the university’s new $100,000 Commercialization Accelerator Fund, will help researchers through the final stage of work needed to apply for patents.

"Universities are playing a larger role than ever before in economic development," said Dean Smith, Texas Tech vice president for research. "We have many faculty who have ideas that could move into the market place, but need a little help to get to the patent stage."

The projects, by Robert Shaw, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Dick Auld and Robert Wright, professors in the Department of Plant and Soil Science, were selected from 12 applications from within the university.

"We sent the applications to outside reviewers, both scientists and venture capitalists," Smith said. "Each project is very near a stage where the researcher can apply for a patent. They just need a little extra financial help to get there. Many major research universities have this type of program. Texas Tech is now stepping up to provide our faculty extra help."

Shaw received $63,000 for his project. He has developed a compound that could increase the effectiveness of current antibiotics. His work is protected by three patent applications. There is a $30 billion market for antibiotics in the United States alone. But bacteria are becoming resistant to traditionally used antibiotics. Disease causing bacteria are producing enzymes that cause a change in the chemical structure of an antibiotic rendering it ineffective in killing the bacteria. Shaw has developed an inhibitor compound which can be administered in combination with antibiotics to prevent the enzymes from inactivating the antibiotic allowing the drugs to kill the bacteria. Shaw will use his grant for animal testing that will accelerate the commercialization of the technology.

Auld and Wright received a $40,000 grant to continue work on a second generation of turf grass called Tech Turf II. Working in cooperation with area businesses, the researchers have already patented and marketed Tech Turf I, a type of Buffalo Grass and Shadowturf, a type of Zoysiagrass. The researchers predict that over the next six years the three patents could eventually produce $1.9 million in royalties for Texas Tech, $11 million in new business income and 20 additional jobs annually for the Lubbock area. Tech Turf II is designed to have the same drought and pest resistance characteristics, but show a darker green color desired by consumers. Auld and Wright will use the grant to perform the DNA fingerprinting needed to patent protect the plants.

"When technology transfer works it benefits the university by not only providing new knowledge but also by producing royalties," Smith said. "For the businesses who partner with the university’s researchers, there is a potential for new sales income and new job creation. Working together in this manner, universities and businesses help ensure the continued strength of our local, state and the national economy."