LSU AgCenter is a rainmaker when it comes to research royalties


    When it comes to technology transfer, the LSU AgCenter is, arguably, the poster child for Louisiana. Over the past decade, its research on rice, sweet potato varietals and beverage sweeteners—to name just a few examples—has resulted in lucrative licensing agreements that generate millions of dollars for the researchers, the AgCenter and the university.

    In 2011, for instance, the AgCenter accounted for more than half of all licensing deals executed throughout the LSU System, which includes the A&M campus, Pennington Biomedical Research Institute, Health Sciences Centers in New Orleans and Shreveport, and the University of New Orleans. More importantly, those deals brought in more than $10.6 million, about 90% of the total royalty income that flowed into the LSU System.

    “The AgCenter has become very successful in getting its products to market,” says Nicole Honoree, director of research and economic development for the LSU System.

    It’s done that through pursuing both exclusive and non-exclusive licensing agreements of its technologies, which are varied. An example of the former is a deal inked in 2003 with BASF and Clearfield Rice to produce and market an herbicide-resistant rice varietal developed by AgCenter researchers. The deal has brought in more than $20 million over the past decade, 40% of which has gone to the researchers, the rest of which has been divided up within the LSU System.

    Institutions like the AgCenter typically enter into an exclusive licensing agreement when there is a really big discovery like the Clearfield Rice, which has revolutionized rice production around the world, or, say, a new cancer drug. Those are the most lucrative deals and bring in big revenue for the duration of the exclusivity agreement.

    But the AgCenter has also been smart about inking lots of non-exclusive deals for some of its other discoveries—like a sweeter sweet potato called the Evangeline that is easy to grow and holds up well in transport. Dozens of farmers throughout the state and the country now grow the potatoes, and send
    small royalty checks the way of LSU. It’s not big money, like Clearfield Rice, but it adds up.

    “From a royalty revenue standpoint Clearfield has been the most successful,” says Wade Baumgartner, director of the office of intellectual property at the LSU AgCenter. “But I think the non-exclusive license deals, relative to some other technologies have been, perhaps, as successful in getting the technology developed and into the marketplace.”

    Over the past decade, tech transfer deals from the AgCenter have generated more than $30 million. Here’s a look at some of the most notable.

    The herbicide-resistant rice, developed by the LSU AgCenter, is now grown around the world under exclusive license to BASF. This technology revolutionized the rice industry and remains the leading technology in the industry. Since the licensing deal was reached in 2003, it has brought in more than $20 million.

    This Baton Rouge-based bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing company is developing a line of high-protein
    drugs using technology from the LSU AgCenter. The deal is a decade old and has not yet produced any revenue because so much development has gone into the drugs, but it is expected to become a major revenue generator within the next couple of years.

    It’s one of several successful new sweet potato varietals developed by the AgCenter and licensed to growers around the country. It’s got a sweeter flavor profile than other types, and transports better because of its shape. So far, non-exclusive licensing agreements on the Evangeline and other varietals have brought in close to $100,000 since 2008.

    This Baton Rouge-based bio-pharmaceutical company develops novel, targeted anticancer agents based on patented technologies from the LSU AgCenter, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and LSU A&M. The licensing deal was done in 2006 but has not produced royalty revenues yet, as the company is still in clinical trials.

    A Covington-based sports drink start-up produces a low-sugar, low-calorie product that’s higher in electrolytes and promises a better flavor than competing sports drinks. H&B’s new drink line, EX5, uses technology developed by researchers at the LSU AgCenter Department of Food Science. The deal was finalized earlier this year and is not yet producing royalty revenue.

    This local company has partnered with the LSU AgCenter to develop a marsh remediation and coastal restoration technology under the trade name Shore Links. The technology is a low-cost solution to coastal wetlands restoration and protection. The deal was signed in 2011 and has not yet produced royalty revenue.

    This new type of plastic and wood composite prevents lost circulation in oil drilling wells. The technology was licensed from the AgCenter by Hole Pluggers, a New Iberia company, and is produced at its plant in north Louisiana. The deal, signed in 2009, has brought in $100,000 or so. But a new worldwide distribution agreement with a subsidiary of Haliburton is expected to significantly increase royalty revenue.