"Where angels fear to tread", Case Tech Transfer VP has brought great success to Cleveland

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Tue, 07/12/2005 - 01:25.

The July 11, 2005, Ohio Venture Association (OVA) luncheon featured Mark Coticchia, VP for Research and Technology Management at Case University, presenting a report on the progress of his organization since he arrived in Cleveland four years ago. He demonstrated that the progress has been amazing; all performance metrics tracked are at least 100% improved since 2001.

Mark’s presentation concluded a great luncheon at the Union Club, open networking of OVA members and guests, and “Five-Minute Forum� presentations by two early stage entrepreneurial ventures… a powerful learning and meeting experience.

As is the tradition with OVA, after lunch each attendee stood up and provided a brief, personal introduction. These greetings illustrated OVA attracts a diverse, interesting, international group, including entrepreneurs, business and entrepreneurship service providers, venture capitalists and investors, who are all interested to network together.

These OVA luncheons also serve as membership meetings, and the membership director announced there will not be a program in August - but they are encouraging new members to join. This is worthwhile for anyone interested in being part of the entrepreneurship community in Northeast Ohio – contact Joan McCarthy, 216-566-8884, or visit online at http://www.ohioventure.org/

Following attendee introductions were two “five-minute forums�, organized by NEO411.biz director Brad Nellis, where very early stage enterprises presented their brief business plans to the receptive audience.

This OVA luncheon featured Yehuda Borenstein, President and CEO of AlphaMirror, an Israel-connected early stage company developing auto-dimming mirrors for automobiles and trucks. They are an accelerator tenant at Beachwood Business Development Center, with joint venture relations with Elbit Systems, a world leader in defense electronics & electro-optical systems and products -http://www.elbitsystems.com – and AlphaMicron, Inc., a NEO innovator in electronically controllable liquid crystal technologies - http://alphamicron.com/

The presentation will be posted here – in brief, the presenter reported auto-dimming mirrors offer a total market potential of $2.5-$3 billion. Currently, the industry is dominated by two huge enterprises - Gentex has 78% share and Magna-Donnelly has 20% share.

There is an opportunity for an investor to gain an equity stake in AlphaMirror and fund innovation in a commoditized industry. There is high and rapidly growing demand for auto dimming mirrors – consumers report this is a preferred enhancement to vehicles… there are currently only two players in the industry… there is an opportunity for new entrants. AlphaMirror has a complex technology and a better solution.

Their Liquid Crystal technology leverages similar principles as with laptops. Their technology is environment-friendly, fast acting, low current, low cost, can fit truck applications, has no “iris effect� – it is a better solution. Their technology is a trade secret – they’re patenting upper level features.

The company is seeking $7 million to penetrate auto market, expand innovation and development – invest in production plant. They have requested $2 million from Joint US-Israeli fund… NEO investors now have the opportunity to be part of this high potential global enterprise.

Contact information: Yehuda Borenstein, 216-360-8107 - yehudait [at] netvision [dot] net [dot] il.

The second “5-minute forum� featured Steve Weeks, a 25 year entrepreneur and partner in a tech transfer fund, who is co-founder of TGT, LLC, which is developing reprocessable medical exam gloves and glove reprocessing technologies.

The gloves can be recycled 10 times – TGT’s technology solutions includes the gloves and the recycling and packaging equipment.

The gloves are bar-coded to track their history.

TGT’s business model is to provide an exclusive license to a glove manufacturer, another exclusive license to an equipment manufacturer to produce the technology to process and package the gloves, and many non-exclusive licenses to reprocessing operators, which will earn revenues on a per-glove operating license

Why reprocess something as inexpensive as medical gloves? 100 billion gloves are consumed per year by healthcare, food processing and high tech industries – and there are disposal issues.

TGT’s business proposal offers about 60% cost reductions to end-users. TGT believes they can develop brand awareness and leverage existing, familiar distribution channels.

The founder of TGT developed a company in Europe for reprocessing clean room gloves. The enterprise is offering a 10% equity holding for a $150,000 investment – paid back from first licensing fees with investor retaining 10% equity interest.

The presenter points out this is an opportunity to make an investment here in Cleveland that has Asian and developing country hook (growth will be largely outside US).

Presentation and contact information will post here.

Following the 5-minute forums, before moving on to the main presentation, the OVA President asked the OVA membership to vote on a board issue - two months ago, OVA amended its charter and needed a membership meeting to review board changes, proposing existing Board Members remain until 2007 and new members be selected who will serve through 2008. Proposed new board members were Michael Stubler, a Managing Director and Chief
Financial Officer of Draper Triangle Ventures, Mark Coticchia, Vice President for Research
and Technology Management at Case Western Reserve University (Case), David Brown, leader of Red Hawk, and Joseph Zupan, of
Momentum Capital – they were all voted onto the Board by the OVA membership.

Moving on to the main event, Mark Coticchia took the podium and explained he came to Cleveland and Case in 2001 as VP for Research and Technology Management, after being recruited from Redleaf Group, a Venture Capital firm in Pittsburgh. Prior, he was Director of Tech Transfer at Carnegie Mellon, where he remains an adjunct professor.

He started his presentation by acknowledging he is pleased and honored to become an OVA board member. Mark then pointed out that he spoke at OVA 4 years ago about Case’s plans for tech transfer – today, he’s happy to share how plans have played out, as it's a good story.

He acknowledged that when he was being recruited by Case it was a scary time – the University had no president, no affiliation agreement with University Hospitals or the Cleveland Clinic, limited tech transfer activities, not enough resources dedicated to the function, no alignment or teamwork. Today, he celebrates; the organization’s hallmark is “collaboration, cooperation, and partnership�.

Looking back today, Mark said he came to Case to establish a team, having the full support of Case’s new president, Edward Hundert, the full support of the entire organization, and the full support of this entire community – he built a strong staff, created regional alignment, and drove for success. Success he has found.

Case technology transfer is now considered world-class. They focus on innovation rather than IP… market potential vs. just technology. They have a targeted approach focused on developing winners – they operate as a business – they focus on customer service and new venture creation.

The results have been phenomenal. Their invention disclosures from faculty has doubled since 2001 – it is now where it should be for a university of Case’s caliber. MTAs/MDAs have grown likewise – number of deals, licenses options and related agreements are increasing rapidly as well.

In last 4 years, total technology transfer-related license income has grown to $32 million – up to $11 million peak last year – stabilized this year around $8 million – all that in consideration that most deals don't start paying off until 5-8 years out.

Over past 4 years, revenues from Mark’s organization showed a 4X return on Case's investments – 75% of that has gone to inventors, ventures and the university and 25% has been pumped back into Mark’s research infrastructure, allowing for greater future growth.

Nationally, Case is now in top 10 among peers – moved from laggard to leader. Mark now has an experienced team – good business developers with good skills.

In Mark’s presentation, he highlighted that the university took a bold move to create a pre-seed venture fund of $5 million – with that backing they have spun off 10 companies since the fund’s inception and now spin off 4 per year

Case has emerged as leader in tech transfer in Ohio, representing nearly 50% of all such licensing income in state – and they invest and spend in Ohio, with 50% of their transactions being with Ohio companies.
Case technology transfer has developed a strong regional innovation network leveraging over 50 FTEs across diverse organizations who are focused on innovation commercialization – from JumpStart to Bioenterprise.

Q. An attendee said thank you to Mark, from the technical community. But asked: now, with the $5 million in a preseed fund and all the support from Bioenterprise and across their network, what does Mark see as Case's role in coming years to drive for 10 times our region’s current level of angel funding?

A. Mark pointed out Case co-owns JumpStart and Bioenterprise – they've been working with Ben Calkins, and Jamie Ireland and other venture capitalists to look at the funding continuum, and JumpStart’s Ray Leach has “stepped up to the plate� to help organize a larger private venture network – Ray sees more deals presented to JumpStart than there are funds available.

Mark asks, “does that answer question�?

Q. “No� – can’t Case have bigger role – step up outreach to alumni?

A. Mark can’t speak for Case at that level.

Q. What does Cleveland need to do to be attractive to the spin-off companies Case develops?

A. Mark said: “I play where angels fear to tread� – we keep early stage companies close to home – they aren't leaving Case until they grow – at that stage they are in the competitive marketplace and need to be near the right resources.

Q. Is Cleveland doing what it needs to do to support the process?

A. Yes – we have good resources and currently have space available at Bio Enterprise – Cleveland has what is needed.

Q. What types of companies have you spun off?

A. Mark acknowledged: “some must stay below radar� but he was able to name a dozen or so new companies created – most are in medical solutions, nanocrystals, biomedical – points out 70% of research base at Case is in biomedical field

Q. Where do you see technology having next big impact in our lives?

A. Imaging, stem cells, personalized delivery of drugs.

Q. Economist Magazine says healthcare is slowest to adopt IT – what can we do about that?

A. OSU, Case and Summa are working together to create one stop shop for clinical trails for drug companies – healthcare is last place where IT folks have gotten traction, but this collaboration will put Case and Ohio on the map in this important realm.

Q. There’s lots of interest in fuel cells and Case is building new facility by old Mt Sinai/West Quad – are they connected?

A. Mark said that’s a Wright Center – Tech Transfer is helping with development and commercialization – will support many research interests, including biosciences and fuel cells.

Q. Attendee pointed out his company is growing and in looking to needs of his company as it grows he will face a people/skills shortage… biggest problem… can't afford nation-wide search. – is it possible for Case to help create ways to find right people – one stop shop for available people?

A. Mark pointed out Bioenterprise and JumpStart have CEO level Rolodex's but that’s not addressing rest of market – human resources is an organic marketplace that will need to evolve with the region.

Entrepreneur in audience says he is working on tools and applications to help with that.

And so it goes, at a great OVA luncheon – diverse community leaders come together to learn current and future success stories, network together, and help the region develop our new economy.

Check this out for yourself – the next OVA lunch is September 2 and will feature a presentation from Baiju Shah, President of Bioenterprise, which will offer nice continuity from this session with Mark Coticchia.