Back in 1965, University of Florida physiologists whipped up a fluid-replacement beverage for UF football players to keep them from wilting under the hot Florida sun. That concoction evolved into Gatorade, which earned UF $5.7 million in licensing income for fiscal year 1997-98. While the sports drink became a national prototype for the profit potential of university research, new products have replaced it as the leader in the royalty race.
A glaucoma drug, Trusopt, developed by a UF professor, brought in $10.5 million in royalties last year, boosting UF's licensing income to a record $19.1 million, which placed UF seventh among all U.S. universities in gross licensing income. Meanwhile Florida State University ranked fourth nationally last year, thanks to income of $29.6 million from its patent on the process to manufacture the cancer-fighting drug taxol. Half went to the inventor, FSU professor Robert Holton.
The income puts both UF and FSU in the same league as institutions such as Stanford and Columbia, and ahead of Yale and Harvard. Meanwhile, the research goes on. The next licensing income hit for UF is likely to be Sentricon, a household termite formula created with DowElanco. The bug killer generated $435,155 in royalties in the last fiscal year and has almost doubled that so far in 1998-99.
While the licensing income is nice, universities say that pulling in money for sponsored research is even more important. While FSU had more licensing income, for example, the university was only 63rd in sponsored research dollars with $105 million, compared to UF's $221 million, which placed it 28th best in the U.S.
The lion's share of universities' research dollars comes from the federal government (see chart), but alliances with private companies are becoming more and more common. UF cycles its share of royalties back into education and research and aggressively pursues transforming its research into commercial products.
The university is always on the look-out for licensing opportunities, corporate partnerships and ways to fund start-up companies. Karen Hersey, senior counsel of intellectual property at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former president of the Association of University Technology Managers, says the public university systems in Texas and North Carolina, along with UF, are among the few southern public universities so actively engaged in technology transfer.
Trusopt, ironically, "was almost an afterthought," says its inventor, retired pharmacology professor Tom Maren, who worked with Merck Pharmaceuticals on the product. Maren had given up on finding a non-toxic compound to treat glaucoma before one additional effort in the late 1970s led to his invention of a benign compound for glaucoma.
Maren was able to patent the underlying concept even though he hadn't yet worked out the specifics. Meanwhile, Merck was busy trying thousands of compound combinations with the same objective. Since Maren had the patent on the parameters, the company had to work with him to take it to market in 1995. Five percent of net sales goes to UF and Maren, who split the $10.5 million evenly. Maren, 81, has used $600,000 of his cut of the Trusopt royalties to endow a pharmacology professorship at UF, and gave about $2 million for a similar post at Johns Hopkins University, where he taught before joining UF in 1955. He also has given $20,000 for books for poor school children in Alachua County.
In the News
Alachua County -- The fate of the county's largest private employer may be decided this month. Energizer Power Systems employs 700 in Gainesville. Owner Ralston Purina Co. was weighing bids for the money-losing plant, which produces rechargeable batteries for manufacturers. Officials anticipated it would stay open. Eveready Battery Co., a division of Ralston, plans to focus more heavily on the consumer and disposable market.
Jacksonville -- Local healthcare giant Baptist/St. Vincent's Health System's three-year foray into managed care has failed. Mission: Health, owned jointly by Baptist/St. Vincent's and the North Florida Physicians Association, is liquidating in bankruptcy proceedings after amassing debts of about $40 million. Mission: Health blames rising cost of drugs and other components of medical care; insurers say it wasn't well managed.
Half a year after it announced plans to sell its 42-story downtown office tower, NationsBank had sold the skyscraper as part of a $140-million portfolio of Southeast U.S. properties to Miami-based real estate firm Parmenter Co. The bank will continue to lease space. The move mirrors many financial companies' divestitures of real estate.
A large block of public property along the St. Johns River downtown soon will be available for private development. Electric utility JEA (Jacksonville Electric Authority) plans to shut down its Southside Generating Station, which sits on 30 acres, and close the operation in fall 2001.
Raymond Mason Jr., former chairman of American National Bank, loved community banking and was crushed when his father, former American National chairman emeritus, pushed the bank's sale to SouthTrust in 1998. Now, Mason Jr. plans to open a new community bank, CenterBank, next year.
Levy County -- The historic Izaak Walton Lodge in Yankeetown burned to the ground July 22nd. No guests were staying in the 75-year-old lodge on the Withlacoochee River, and no one was injured. Also lost was The Compleat Angler, the lodge's restaurant, which consistently made Florida Trend's Top 200 list of the best eateries. Owners Linda and Wayne Harrington say they will rebuild the lodge they restored 13 years ago.
Nassau County -- Some residents and businesspeople have protested a planned Wal-Mart Superstore on Amelia Island. A group of merchants has filed a legal challenge to a county zoning ruling in favor of the store, which would be 103,000 square feet.
With Amelia Island all but built out, developers are moving inland. Landmar Group and Hampton Golf, both of Jacksonville, plan a 600-home golf course community in Yulee to be revved up by the end of 2000. Homes, will cost $125,000 to $350,000 -- a bit less than high-end residences on the island.
Ocala -- When Kmart Corp. completes a 463,000-sq.-ft. addition to its 1.6-million-sq.-ft. distribution center, it will be the largest building under one roof in the Southeast U.S., according to the retailer. The facility, which shuttles Kmart products throughout the Southeast and Caribbean, also will add 200 news jobs to the current 150.
St. Johns County -- The St. Augustine Record, a newspaper established in 1894, plans to move next year from its home since 1906 to a modern $9-million facility that it will build in the Flagler-era Mediterranean revival style.
When Jacksonville's Davis family -- founders and largest shareholders of Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. -- announced plans in March to build a massive, 14,000-home planned community on its treasured Dee Dot ranch southeast of the city, the news stunned many people. So did the July sale of American Heritage Life Investment Corp. (the Davises own 40% of the insurer) to Allstate Corp. for $1.1 billion. Was the family, led by Winn-Dixie Chairman and CEO A. Dano Davis, looking to liquidate holdings, including Winn-Dixie, Florida's second largest publicly traded company? Rumors of a Winn-Dixie sale had been swirling for months. The grocery chain's hasty decision to settle employment discrimination allegations for $33 million only heightened speculation. But in early August, Dano Davis doused the takeover flames. "Because of the many recent rumors to the contrary, I will break from our corporate policy and say that we are not negotiating for the sale of the company, nor have we been. Any rumors to the contrary are false," Davis said in a prepared statement. "Our commitment is to the long term."