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Physics and Astronomy

Physics & Astronomy Colloquium

3:30 PM, Friday, November 18, 2011
Room 155, Chem-Phys Building

Dr. Alexandre Terentiev
U.S. Life Sciences
ATMI

"Turning Basic Academic Research into a Profitable Business: LevTech, Inc.''

The discovery of high-temperature superconductivity in copper oxides in 1986 generated grand scenarios for revolutionary advances in a range of technologies, including transportation, medicine, computing, electronics and energy. However, very few commercial applications of high-TC cuprates presently exist, in spite of the substantial increases of the transition temperature TC from 40 K to around 140 K realized since 1986.

Beginning in 1998, the Speaker and his UK postdoctoral adviser, Prof. Lance De Long, explored potential applications of superconducting levitation. At the same time, pharmaceutical manufacturers were struggling with high cleaning/sterilization costs and intolerable contamination of products during critical mixing steps in drug and vaccine processing. The apparent answer to this problem was “disposable mixing” in sterilized plastic bags, but no optimal mixing platform was available for plastic bags. Taking advantage of parallel advances in materials and cryogenic technologies, a prototype “superconducting levitation mixer” (SLM) was developed by the Speaker and De Long at UK in 1998-2000.

The basic intellectual property for the SLM was ultimately patented by UK and licensed to LevTech, Inc., a startup company organized by the Speaker and De Long in 2000. After many twists and turns in both technical and business development, LevTech achieved industry recognition and profitability, and was finally sold to ATMI, a semiconductor processing company, in 2008 for $27M. LevTech now produces the second largest royalty stream derived from current UK IP, and provides the UK Department of Physics and Astronomy with a much-needed portion of this income.

We will discuss the fundamental scientific and technical issues associated with SLM development, as well as the equally important legal, financial and management problems that faced LevTech on its road to marketing a landmark mixing technology for the world’s biopharmaceutical industries.

Refreshments will be served in CP 179 at 3:15 PM