Advancing Startup Companies

A new type of licensing agreement is now available to faculty members at the University of Kansas (KU) to make it easier to take lab discoveries and spin them out into new startup companies.

Nikki Cheng, Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at KU’s Medical Center and Founder of Fennik Life Sciences LLC is the first faculty member to take advantage of the new “Swift Startup” license agreement.

Unlike the typical license agreement which includes various upfront costs for the startup founder, the “Swift Startup” license agreement is a backend-loaded structure with no upfront payments, no past patent costs, no annual minimum fees, no minimum royalties, and one low flat royalty rate or success fee. The agreement is not negotiable, which enables KU faculty entrepreneurs to quickly and easily license their technology into a new startup company.

“This agreement helps KU companies by allowing them to invest in the company rather than paying back the university when the company is new and trying to get off the ground,” said Julie Naget, Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Collaboration.

She is also President of KU’s Innovation and Collaboration Office which sponsors the “Swift Startup” license agreement to help encourage KU researchers to translate their discoveries into new companies and find new marketplace solutions.

Cheng’s company Fennik Life Sciences is working on developing innovative research tools for the life sciences research community. The first product for the company is a cell culture device that closely models a three-dimensional environment for living tissue.

Cheng said her idea came to her when discovering the limitations of animal and cell culture models in her lab. She researches breast cancer progressions and said, “Traditional ways to simulate how cancer may respond to a drug in the body involves either mice or culturing cells as a flat layer on a plate.

Both of these methods offer some disadvantages so Cheng has been working with a researcher in her lab to develop a new model. The new device offers a skeletal framework to allow the user to put cells in specific locations with an organized tissue structure.

Fennik is one of 35 existing KU startup companies. A number of these startups are located in the Bioscience and Technology Business Center which is an incubator network with locations in Lawrence and at the KU Medical Center housing more than 30 tenant companies.

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