Four UO spinoffs receive $50,000 venture-launch grants

EUGENE, Ore. -- (Dec. 19, 2008) -- A bit of light amid the economic gloom: private gifts are helping four new Oregon companies quickly bring to market new ways to fight infectious diseases and new technologies to meet growing demand for food, fuel and raw materials.

The companies, called spinoffs because they develop products or services that stem directly from research at the University of Oregon, will each receive $50,000 venture-launch grants from the University Venture Development Fund, a tax-incentive program approved in 2007 by the Oregon Legislature.

Companies receiving grants this month include:

  • Dune Sciences of Eugene, for demonstrating patented technology using copper nanoparticles for new and better ways of preventing, treating and protecting against bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Floragenex of Eugene, to market products enabling plant breeders to develop desired traits -- without genetic modification -- 10 times faster than by using traditional methods. Markets range from global seed companies to local growers and researchers.
  • Insignia Health of Portland, for development of a Web-based virtual health coach application that offers tailored consumer support based on its Patient Activation Measure, a trademarked patient self-assessment tool.
  • MitoSciences of Eugene, for the first noninvasive diagnostic test for mitochondrial disorders, a group of early-onset neurodegenerative disorders that are difficult to diagnose due to the need for fresh-muscle biopsy samples and time-consuming analyses.

Donors to the University Venture Development Fund receive state income-tax credits worth up to 60 percent of their gifts to participating state universities. The program fast-tracks development of new products, services and companies that contribute to the Oregon economy.

Since the program launched in October 2007, the UO has raised about $800,000, about 25 percent of its $3.27 million authorized total. The UO will award about $400,000 to advance upwards of 10 projects by year's end, according to Don Upson, coordinator of the UO fund.

Successful UO spinoffs pay licensing and royalty fees to the university, revenue that helps advance the university's technology-transfer efforts and support entrepreneurial education programs.

Over time, Upson says, the concept is for the University Venture Development Fund to become self-sustaining.

"In January, we estimate that the first licensing payments from the companies chosen for the UO's first venture launch grants will total about $35,000," Upson said. "The university will use a portion of this revenue to help repay the state for the tax credits. The state will then create new credits in the amount repaid."

For an overview of Oregon's University Venture Development Fund program, including FAQs and links to participating universities, visit For details about the UO's venture development fund, visit