Lessons Learned from Successful Project Directors - BioPore, Inc.
Diagnosis and Therapy for Rooster Fertility
Professors Roy H. Hammerstedt and Guy F. Barbato, of Penn State University, received multi-year support in the early 1990s from the National Research Initiative (NRI) to study components of rooster sperm essential to sperm-egg binding. Because frozen-thawed sperm rarely fertilized eggs, they found that an extract of the membrane surrounding the yolk of an egg could be used as the substrate for a laboratory assay for sperm binding. This assay allowed for the study of specific synthetic peptides to locate a single peptide that mimics the native molecule involved in initial sperm-egg binding.
Disclosures to Penn State resulted in four U.S. patents for a sperm-binding assay and a pro-fertility peptide. The technologies were licensed to BioPore, Inc., a small business in State College, PA, founded in 1987 by Hammerstedt, Rupert P. Amann, and Sandra R. Hay. Based on data from the NRI projects, BioPore applied for and received USDA, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards and private funding to develop the sperm-binding assay for poultry and humans. An adjunct product stemming from these studies, FertPlus® Peptide for elevating sperm-egg binding, was also identified. Applications in commodity agriculture were tested in conjunction with commercial partners; utility was established but optimum mode(s) of implementation could not be identified. Current studies to validate use in humans are ongoing with a commercial partner.
Question and Answer with Roy H. Hammerstedt
How did you initiate contact with your university regarding the commercialization of your research?
I was a member of the faculty, and core basic concepts grew from my work there. I disclosed to the university, and then licensed to “my other hat.”
What was the incentive for you to commercialize your research?
I wanted to see something happen form the basic observations.
Why did you decide to use SBIR as a funding source?
It provided a good bridge funding.
What intellectual property agreement do you have between the university and your small business for this project?
All original intellectual property (IP) was property of university. After that we kept good fire-walls to keep IP separate. It worked because of the principle of full disclosure.
What is your relationship with the small business?
Was CEO, now shareholder.
Did you continue to pursue project-related research at the university after receiving SBIR funding?
Yes, until my retirement in 1999.
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