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Noetic Technologies moves research to commercialization

Hattiesburg — Noetic Technologies is bridging the gap between the university world and the marketplace.

Established in April with seed money from an anonymous donor, the commercial and marketing arm of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Research Foundation manages intellectual property and business development.

“We’re the liaison between the research world and the commercial world at Southern Miss,” said Les Goff, Ph.D., president and CEO of Noetic Technologies. “We take what the university has, script it and polish it so that it’s easier to market.”

Goff, a Greenwood native who earned a doctorate in polymer science from Southern Miss and spent 15 years working with G.E. Plastics, returned to Hattiesburg to helm the upstart firm at the urging of Southern Miss president Shelby Thames.

“There’s no doubt that Southern Miss excels in education and research,” said Thames. “Now we have a company in place that will help take that research into the commercial marketplace.”

Goff, whose wife is a polymer science professor at Southern Miss, said “there are many clever professors and scientists at Southern Miss who don’t really have a good understanding of how to turn technology into commercial projects. They understand working with companies, but they don’t understand those process steps. Shelby Thames is an entrepreneur and understands that process. We’re a piece of his mission of taking technology and driving it to the marketplace.”

Noetic Technologies already has several high-profile projects in its portfolio. Shell Chemical Company of Houston, Texas, donated intellectual property to the university’s research foundation, which turned it over to the firm for commercialization. Thanks to Goff’s work, Dean Bertram, a forensics instructor at Southern Miss, and Kim Wright, a histology technician at Forrest General Hospital, recently signed a licensing agreement with Biocare Medical of Walnut Creek, Calif., to produce and market a tissue rehydration agent they created. The nontoxic solution, which will make it easier for coroners to revive fingerprints and identify deceased, is being tested by the Department of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Laboratory in Iraq and will be sold as a kit to crime labs and law enforcement agencies.

Even though other universities have licensing groups to handle intellectual property and file patents, Noetic Technologies also assists with business development, marketing, joint venture opportunities and “a whole myriad of opportunities that normally a licensing group in a university doesn’t touch,” said Goff, who pointed to economic development projects. “We’re on the periphery of talking to companies about relocating to the area.”

Noetic Technologies, which falls under the Mississippi University Research Authority Act of 1992 allowing university faculty to profit from their research projects, makes money from a percentage of licensing fees.

“We want to make enough to cover our bills and raise some seed money to start some other projects, but we’re really concentrating on getting revenue on the back end,” explained Goff. “We want a long-term relationship, with a revenue stream on sales of products. If it works, everybody wins. If it doesn’t, nobody wins.”

Earlier this month, Southern Miss co-sponsored an Intellectual Property Forum and Technology Expo in Jackson with other state universities and the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA). The meeting brought together business leaders and venture capitalists with university researchers who presented company ideas and unique technologies available for licensing and explored opportunities for collaborative research to solve business problems.

“The expo went very well,” said Goff. “It was a good start. The universities represented a good range of interesting technologies. There’s always room for improvement, and I’m encouraging them to do that again next year.”

Jack Harrington, MTA vice president for business venture development, said that when universities commercialize research consistently over time, it creates momentum that helps access risk capital and bring together resources needed to build successful companies.

“When you concentrate that experience in one place, with each company you are better equipped to build the next one,” he said.

Goff said, “If we are successful, the university will be successful, as will Mississippi. Our governor has really put a challenge to all universities to let people know we have world-class technology available right here in our state.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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