Three Virginia Universities Land on Top Patents List

Three Virginia research universities have made the National Academy of Inventors’ new list ranking the nation’s universities that were granted the most patents in 2022.

The University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University each made the list released Aug. 30, ranking 43rd, 86th and 91st respectively. U.Va. had 52 patents issued in 2022; VCU had 17 patents and GMU had 15.

The National Academy of Inventors announced the list Tuesday using calendar year data gathered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is intended to “highlight and celebrate U.S. universities that play a large role in advancing innovation and invention in the United States” and follows NAI’s Top 100 Worldwide Universities list, which has been published since 2013.

“As a U.S.-based national academy, it is important to us not only to showcase innovation happening on the broader world stage, but here at home as well. Invention has been part of the American experience since the country’s inception, with intellectual property being protected in the Constitution,” NAI Executive Director Jamie Renee said in a statement. “Innovation has always been at the heart of U.S. culture, and the Top 100 U.S. Universities list allows us to recognize and celebrate the commitment these universities have to the American tradition of invention and protection of IP.”

The University of California topped the U.S. universities list as well as the worldwide list of institutions, ranking No. 1 in calendar year 2022 with 570 patents, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology with 343 patents, ranking second on both lists. In Virginia, only U.Va. made the 2022 worldwide list, ranking No. 65.

Richard Chylla, executive director of U.Va.’s Licensing and Ventures Group, told Virginia Business that most of the university’s patents are in the life sciences, mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, including medical devices — all fields on which U.Va. focuses a majority of its research. Patents, he added, can take between two and five years from filing to issuance.

Patents provide incentives for companies to license patent rights, and that money is reinvested in university research enterprises; licensing fees generate between $4 million and $10 million for U.Va. annually, Chylla said.

“It’s part of filling the obligation to the public; it’s a public good,” Chylla said. “So we’re trying to take the money that is spent on research at the university, most of which comes from federal sources, and we’re trying to get it in the hands of the public.”

U.Va. filed for 240 patents in fiscal year 2022, according to U.Va’s Licensing and Venture Group 2022 annual report. Granted patents included a method and system for enhanced deep brain imaging visualization, methods and systems in the treatment of diabetes, and molecular genetic approaches to treating and diagnosing alcohol and drug dependence. U.Va. also struck 85 licensing deals with 45 industry partners, down from 92 in fiscal year 2021.

According to information shared with Virginia Business from its yet-to-be-published 2023 annual report, U.Va. received 46 patents during fiscal year 2023, which concluded June 30, in areas including medical imaging and treatments for melanoma and other cancers.

VCU, meanwhile, filed for 144 patents last year and was issued 20, three of which were issued in Japan and Europe, according to its 2022 annual report, which focuses on the July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022 fiscal year.  Patents included devices and methods for repairing tissue damage, as well as processes involved with the treatment of sickle cell disease and detecting fungus in the gut. The university generated $3.12 million in licensing revenue.

“Transformational research and innovation happens every day at VCU, and it is due to our collaborative and transdisciplinary approach that we are the recipients of this recognition from the NAI,” P. Srirama Rao, VCU’s vice president for research and innovation, said in a statement. “The impact of VCU’s novel innovations and rapidly growing research enterprise is felt locally, nationally and globally as it continues to work to address society’s most pressing grand challenges.”

VCU’s research is driven by the One VCU Research Strategic Priorities Plan, which was launched in fiscal 2022 and outlines four research priorities, including enriching the human experience, establishing a just and equitable society, optimizing health and supporting sustainable energy and environments. The university says it has already met goals of becoming a top 50 U.S. research university and receiving more than $400 million in sponsored research funding, which it aimed to meet by 2028.

For fiscal year 2021, VCU landed at No. 50 on the National Science Foundation’s ranking of expenditures on research and development by public universities. U.Va. ranked No. 30, followed by Virginia Tech at No. 38. George Mason ranked No. 77, and Old Dominion landed at No. 136.

George Mason did not respond to a request for additional information by press time.

The Tampa, Florida-based NAI was founded in 2010 and is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, government and nonprofit research institutes with more than 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows spanning more than 250 institutions.


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