News Release: Research, University News

May 11,  2010

Economic Growth Is Sparked by Federal Investment in Basic University Research

New national report highlights Emory startup companies as "Success Stories"

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A new report demonstrating the link between federally funded basic research and economic growth highlights four Emory startup companies among its 100 "success stories." Released today by The Science Coalition, "Sparking Economic Growth: How federally funded university research creates innovation, new companies and jobs" traces the origins of 100 companies to breakthrough research conducted at a university and sponsored by a federal agency.

The Emory startup companies highlighted in the report are:

  • GeoVax, Inc., Smyrna, Georgia
    Vaccines for diseases caused by HIV and other infectious agents
  • Pharmasset, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey
    Drugs to treat viral infections
  • Syntermed, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia
    Diagnostic medical imaging software
  • Triangle Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Gilead Sciences, Foster City, California)
    Drugs to treat life-threatening diseases, including HIV/AIDS, in areas of unmet medical need

The Emory-related companies are highlighted along with superstars Google, Genentech, Cisco Systems and iRobot.

"It is essential that federal funding of basic university research continues at a high level," says Emory President James Wagner. "Universities also have an obligation to apply their research creativity to help ensure that those investments are applied ultimately in the service of humanity, and to translate research discoveries into innovations that can benefit all citizens in terms of improved health, better technologies and economic development. Technology transfer helps us carry out that mission."

Collectively, the 100 highlighted companies employ well over 100,000 people and have annual revenues approaching $100 billion. The Sparking Economic Growth Report illustrates the substantial economic benefits to the United States when companies are created as a result of discoveries in federally funded university laboratories.

"The benefit to patients from federally funded Emory research resulting in commercialized products is incredible in its scope," says Todd Sherer, PhD, Emory associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Technology Transfer. "For example, more than 90 percent of HIV patients on life saving therapies in the United States and Europe, and thousands more around the world, take one or more drugs first developed at Emory through federally sponsored research."

A promising HIV/AIDS vaccine first developed at Emory through National Institutes of Health funding is being developed by GeoVax and tested in human clinical trials. Cardiac imaging software developed at Emory and licensed to Syntermed, Inc., helps in the diagnosis of more than four million patients every year.

Emory University's technology transfer program, including a robust product pipeline, is one of the nation's leading programs for guiding technology developed in the laboratory through the patenting and licensing process to the marketplace and into the hands of consumers and patients. Since the 1990s, Emory has turned federal research funding into more than $775 million in licensing revenues from drugs, diagnostics, devices and consumer products. These funds have been returned to laboratories and scientists as a new source of funding for continued research.

Based on research discoveries originating in its own laboratories, Emory has launched 47 start-up companies and has licensed 27 therapeutic products, medical devices and diagnostics already in the marketplace and 12 more currently in human clinical trials.

The success stories highlighted in the new report are just a small sample of the many companies that have sprung from the discoveries of federally funded, university-based research. The university-based research at the root of these companies addresses some of society's most pressing needs. It also provides employment for researchers, technicians and support personnel, and serves as a training ground for future generations of scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs.

The Science Coalition is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization of 45 of the nation's leading public and private research universities, including Emory. It is dedicated to sustaining the federal government's investment in basic research as a means to stimulate the economy, drive innovation and secure America's global competitiveness. The organization developed the Sparking Economic Growth report to illustrate one way in which federal investment in basic research helps stimulate the economy. The report is available at along with a database of companies created from federally funded university research.

For more information about technology transfer at Emory, see


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