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The University of Texas at Austin, partner aim to commercialize biotech discovery

The University of Texas at Austin has formed a partnership with an Austin company to commercialize a technology that could improve the effectiveness of agrichemicals and drugs.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin has formed a partnership with an Austin company to commercialize a technology that could improve the effectiveness of agrichemicals and drugs.

The new company, called Entercel Ltd. and based in Austin, has licensed the technology from the university and will continue to develop and market it. The university’s partner is WesTech Ventures I LP, a venture capital fund of Emergent Technologies Inc., also based in Austin. WesTech will provide capital for the new company.

The technology is a chemical-based platform that adjusts a cell’s ability to resist foreign compounds it encounters in its environment. In an agricultural setting, the platform could allow for an herbicide to have better performance and a broader spectrum of activity at a much lower rate. This would mean less chemical applied to the environment and a better product for the company. It could also be used in fungicides that attack pests.

“One would combine our compounds with a herbicide or fungicide or a drug and allow it to have much better performance at a lower dose,” said Brian Windsor, a developer of the technology and chief science officer of the new company. “You might be able to use half of the herbicide or even less to get the same efficacy.”

The technology is the product of research conducted at The University of Texas at Austin by professors Stanley Roux and Alan Lloyd, Windsor, who was a post-doctoral student in their laboratory, and Collin Thomas, a graduate student at the time. They are members of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology in the College of Natural Sciences.

The agreement is significant in several respects:

  • It’s the first deal between the university and Emergent, which has licensed technology from other universities, including the University of Oklahoma and Texas Tech University.

    “Emergent brings strong technical and marketing expertise to the new company,” said Neil Iscoe, director of the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization. “We see opportunities to work more with the company in the future.”

  • It’s a partnership, which is a new commercialization model for the OTC and university. With this structure, the university can anticipate a regular revenue stream of money from the company’s profits. Normally, the university gets royalties or an equity stake in a company spun off from university research.
  • It gives new life to the technology, which had reverted to the university when the original startup Texagen went out of business in 2003.
  • It keeps the technology and the company in Texas. “We had interest about the technology from other companies, but they would have taken it out of state,” Iscoe said. “With the help of Emergent, we’re keeping the company and jobs it generates in Texas, where the technology was developed.”

“The Office of Technology Commercialization has been innovative, flexible and responsive in getting this deal done,” Harlan said.

ETI is a venture capital firm that specializes in forming, funding, commercializing and managing biotech companies for the purpose of converting institutional and university-based technology into high return ventures. Visit its website at www.emergenttechnologies.com

For more information contact: Tim Green, 512-423-5806.