UC Irvine to create medical business/technology incubator

Portal aims to foster economic growth by nurturing start-ups

September 16, 2011
Cochlear Implant Prototype

In its ongoing effort to foster economic growth through innovation, UC Irvine is establishing a new technology company incubator and reaching out to industry in novel ways.

The successful 2010 launch of TechPortal, a business/technology incubator in UC Irvine’s California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technology that houses five UC Irvine-based start-ups, has inspired the creation of a similar entity associated with UC Irvine Medical Center.

TechPortal Orange—a medical business/technology incubator occupying 3,100 square feet of lab and office space in Shanbrom Hall, the heart of the medical center—will provide resources for both start-ups and faculty interaction with industry. Currently being renovated for a planned debut at the end of October, TechPortal Orange will accommodate as many as 14 companies. Inquiries from potential tenants are already coming in.

“Commercializing the university’s inventions and discoveries is a vital part of our mission,” said Jacob Levin, assistant vice chancellor for research development who is involved in the project. “It’s one of the things we’ve been entrusted by society to do. Only through realizing society’s investment in research and education can we deliver on the promise of science and technology and create the world we all envision for the future.”

Initiatives such as TechPortal Orange have been driven in part by entrepreneurial faculty—Fan-Gang Zeng, for example, a UC Irvine professor of otolaryngology and biomedical engineering whose inventions and patents have culminated in startups that create high-tech jobs. An early attempt to take an improved cochlear implant from the lab to the market failed when the company that bought Zeng’s patent shelved it, never producing the device that could have helped thousands.

He went back to the drawing board, vowing that this time the invention would reach people who could benefit from it. Zeng and his partners worked with UC Irvine’s Office of Technology Alliances to launch Nurotron Biotechnology Inc., which tests and manufactures low-cost, high-performance cochlear implants. Currently available in China, the devices are awaiting regulatory approval in the U.S. and Europe.

In addition, UC Irvine has:

  • Reinvested licensing income into the technology transfer process. Previously, the Office of Technology Alliances’ budget was fixed and unrelated to royalty income.
  • Moved the Chief Executive Roundtable under the purview of the Office of the Chancellor, to better support the organization’s mission of building alliances between the business community and campus leadership www.roundtable.uci.edu
  • Convened multiple campus committees, comprising experienced entrepreneurs, business community representatives, and university faculty to increase technology transfer and industry interaction.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UC Irvine contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UC Irvine news, visit news.uci.edu.

News Radio: UC Irvine maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.