“The lotus leaf has given us a wonderful example of a self-cleaning system, designed by nature. ”

– Queen's chemist Dr. Guojun Liu on his amphiphobic materials

The $520 million question

John Molloy


Is there value in university research discoveries?

Earlier this year, within a span of eight weeks to the day, we saw two of our spinoff companies acquired by global multinational corporations for a cumulative return of $520 million.

These companies, DUSA Pharmaceuticals, formerly of Toronto, ON and Cytochroma Inc., of Markham, ON, have some common roots. Both were formed in the1990s, the heyday of the biotechnology industry, and both were based on research at our client institutions, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College of Canada. And in both cases, the inventors turned to us for help in finding the commercial value in that research.

Yet these are two very different stories and paths to success. DUSA was founded by an external entrepreneur, went public early, has demonstrated strong revenue growth, and is still today based primarily on the technology we licensed to this startup in 1991.

Cytochroma was founded by us in 1996 and was incubated on campus for a number of years. It was funded by many venture capital firms and is still in clinical development of its lead product, which is not based on the original technology licensed by us.

But both of these stories demonstrate the value in starting new companies based on good science, and the importance of properly building these companies.

Both companies faced adversity and lows along the way and it was persistence and passion in their mission that kept them going forward.

Both companies took a long time to deliver a return to investors and shareholders – so patience and support by investors was also critical to a successful outcome. And the outcomes have significant impacts in many ways.

Yes! There is value to be realized in starting companies based on university discoveries.