John Carlin looks forward to the day superconductive ceramic materials turn patents held by Kansas University into hot properties.
"Time will tell," Carlin, president of Midwest Superconductivity Inc., said Friday. "If things develop ... we'll be in a good position."
Lawrence-based MSI is cultivating KU physicist Kai-Wai "Ken" Wong's research on superconductivity.
Wong identified the fundamental structure of a wide range of superconductors -- materials that conduct electricity without energy loss. MSI secured the licensing deal on a patent -- partially owned by KU -- related to Wong's research.
Carolyn Cross, KU assistant vice chancellor, said the KU-MSI connection illustrates the university's growing interest in patenting research.
The number of patents issued to KU's main campus in Lawrence in 1992 was four times the number secured in 1988. KU received two patents in 1988 and eight last year.
Cross said the increase was more dramatic at KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. Two patents were granted in 1988 and 14 in 1992.
The situation at KU reflects a national trend. American colleges received 1,491 patents last year, more than four times the number they obtained in 1980.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology received 126 patents in 1992 -- the most by any U.S. college or university. Twenty-one other institutions received 20 or more patents.
Victoria Thomas, KU's general counsel, handles legal work for the university when it deals with the U.S. patent office. The increase in patent acquisition at KU won't add up to an immediate payoff in royalties to the university.
At the moment, she said, KU probably makes more in royalties from copyrighted material than from patents.
"The fact that you hold a patent does not mean you will get a lot of royalty income. You've got to be committed in the long run to benefit," she said.
Thomas said some KU patents were in the pharmaceutical area. It could take five or six years to complete clinical trials before a drug could be marketed, she said.
"It usually requires much more research to make it useful to a commercial entity," she said.
Some universities have wasted money obtaining patents to protect research that wasn't in an area of technology attractive to investors, she said.
"I am absolutely confident that some of these (KU) patents are going to result in important agreements for institutions and for the public," she said.
Carlin said it was important to the state's economic future to bond research universities with private companies involved in technology transfer.
"For us in Kansas, if we do not have a good system for transferring research to the private sector ... then that development will go somewhere else," he said.