by Byron Dobson, Tallahassee Democrat senior writer
Published 6:35 a.m. ET July 31, 2017
Florida State University researcher Yaacov Petscher has developed a web application that will assist teachers in projecting reading success in elementary-age students beyond the standard one-year period.
Currently, based on a series of fluency assessments, teachers are able to determine if a kindergartener, first, second or third grader is high to moderate to a low-risk candidate in reading success.
“This app allows a teacher to take one or more of their fluency scores for students and obtain a percent-change indicator of being a successful reader not just in the current year but up to three years later,” Yaacov Petscher, associate director of the Florida Center for Reading Research at FSU, said.
“That’s a very powerful tool to give a teacher,” Petscher added. “We can predict your chance of being a successful reader out to third grade.”
Petscher’s product, Earlier Assessment for Reading Success, or EARS, has been licensed to the University of Oregon’s Center on Teaching and Learning. The research center will use EARS in conjunction with its DIBELS reading fluency assessment system to assess millions of students across the country.
The licensing agreement between FSU and the University of Oregon’s center is one of several similar deals signed by the university in the last fiscal year.
FSU had 10 license agreements with four options for the fiscal year ending June 30. That compares to seven licenses with three options for the previous fiscal year.
Petscher’s app is among a list of new discoveries with potential for advancement in health care, fitness, and education developed by FSU faculty.
A few of the products were licensed to businesses in Tallahassee.
“We’re getting technologies out that have commercial value,” said Brent Edington, director of FSU’s Office of Commercialization.
“We used to do about five eight years ago and we are doing about 10 a year,” Edington said. “We should be doing 15, 16, 17 a year. Our primary focus is to get technologies developed off the public money out to the public.”
According to FSU, commercialization agreements signed in the past year include:
Potential drugs to combat the Zika virus have been developed by FSU Professor of Biological Science Hengli Tang’s laboratory and licensed to Spotlight Innovation, a pharmaceutical company advancing technologies to combat rare or emerging diseases.
Tang has also developed monoclonal antibodies to Zika virus proteins, which can be used to identify the Zika virus. Rights to these monoclonal antibodies have been licensed to a local company, BioFront Technologies.
FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Professor Bruce Locke has developed technology that uses natural elements and plasma to deliver organic fertilizer to plants and mitigate the environmental impact of growing food. The FSU Research Foundation has signed a license agreement with Advanced Fertilizer Systems to develop and use this technology.
Psychology Professor Brad Schmidt developed a web-based application with tools for healthy living skills. The technology has been licensed to Yo-Fi Wellness, Inc.
Thrivant, located in Tallahassee, has licensed technology developed by Professor of Biomedical Sciences Branko Stefanovic that makes advancements in screening potential drugs to treat liver fibrosis.
FSU’s Office of Commercialization has six full-time employees and two part-timers who work with professors and researchers in moving ideas developed on campus into the hands of companies and investors with the idea of getting these products to the market.
“The majority are licensing managers involved in the commercialization of the technology,” Edington said. “They are involved in protecting the intellectual property through patents and copyrights.”
Edington said the university identifies commercial partners who are interested in certain technologies, which are owned by the university. The professors often get a percentage of royalties. In fiscal year 2015, licenses and agreements generated $579,000 and in fiscal year 2016, $577,000, according to the university officials.
FSU has yet to match the licensing agreement it was able to establish with chemistry professor Robert Holton’s creation Taxol, the synthetic drug licensed in the early 1990s for treatment of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Taxol, over a period of years, generated $350 million for Holton and FSU, the most ever generated through a licensing agreement in the United States and Canada, including the University of Florida’s Gatorade, Edington said.
“It’s a lucky event,” Edington said of the Taxol agreement, which has since expired.
It is unknown how much will be generated for licenses signed during the last fiscal period, as it takes time for companies to get a product out and market it.
Edington said he is pleased with the direction FSU is heading in obtaining agreements, but there is so much more potential in what is being developed on campus.
“We are going to do things better in the future,” he said. “We are going to be doing something this community can be proud of.”
Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @byrondobson.