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Morgan State University's first tech transfer deal is 'major milestone' for school

Awardee Story Morgan State University's first tech transfer deal is 'major milestone' for school
Date: Apr 18, 2018

Source: bizjournals ( click here to go to the source)

Morgan State University recently signed its first technology licensing contract with a startup firm working to help poultry farmers cut down on expenses and pollution.

Victor McCrary, Morgan State's former vice president for research and economic development, called the deal a "major milestone" for the school, as it has been working to launch its new tech transfer office. The university has received three years of state funding -- totaling $1 million annually -- to support efforts to turn promising research into commercial opportunities. And there are more deals to come.

The licensed technology was developed by Seong Lee, a professor and lab director, and his research staff in the Center for Advanced Energy Systems and Environmental Control Technologies in the School of Engineering. After about 10 years of research work, it was spun out into the startup company Cykloburn Technologies LLC, led by CEO and veteran entrepreneur Rob Meissner.

CykloBurn's technology aims to convert excess poultry farm litter into clean energy, Lee said. It will be marketed to poultry farmers as a new way to produce renewable electricity and heat and to reduce pollution from poultry farm waste. Maryland poultry farms produce about 350,000 tons of poultry litter waste annually, Lee said. While helping to reduce the litter, CykloBurn could also help farmers reduce expenses related to nonrenewable energy sources, he said, like the propane they typically use to heat their poultry houses. Development of the technology was partially funded by grants from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program, Maryland Technology Development Corp. and the Abell Foundation.

The startup is backed by more than $250,000 in funding and Meissner expects to raise another $2 million sometime next year to help push CykloBurn to market. In the meantime, the company is working to create a prototype of its technology that can be tested on poultry farms on the Eastern Shore this summer.
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Poultry farming is a large industry in Maryland -- it is among the top 10 chicken producers in the U.S. -- but also across the U.S. and internationally, Meissner said. With the large market opportunity, he projects that CykloBurn's tech could bring in revenue of over $100 million within the next five years.

Wayne Swann, director of technology transfer at Morgan State, has previously been involved with tech transfer efforts at both the University of Maryland, College Park and Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab. Morgan State does not have the same scale or research funding as those institutions, he said, but he is excited to bring his experience to the Baltimore school and to get this new program up and running.

The university plans to do a lot more licensing deals in the months and years ahead and is focused on supporting ventures that could create new jobs and economic opportunities in Maryland, he said.

"We will be a lot more aggressive in identifying new innovations on campus that would be great to transition into new companies," Swann said. "We want more of these companies to not only be formed in the state of Maryland and in Baltimore, but also that they stay here."

In accordance with the new licensing contract, CykloBurn has agreed to establish its business and manufacturing operations in Baltimore City and Meissner said it is currently seeking space.

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