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$1 Million Donation from Anonymous Faculty Member Will Create Fund to Commercialize UB Research

By Mary Cochrane

Release Date: January 23, 2012

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Bruce Holm, the UB senior vice provost who died last year, worked diligently to attract high-profile researchers and inventors to Buffalo.

Buffalo, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo faculty member has anonymously donated $1 million to the university to establish a fund that supports commercializing the discoveries and inventions of his UB colleagues.

The donation will establish the Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund, named for the UB senior vice provost who died last year and whom UB President Satish K. Tripathi described as "the exemplification of researcher, educator, collaborator and entrepreneur."

A UB faculty member since 1989, Holm achieved the SUNY system's highest rank of SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Named executive director of the UB New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences in 2004, he worked diligently to attract high-profile researchers and inventors to Buffalo.

By then, Holm and his UB colleague Edmund Egan, MD, professor of pediatrics, had developed Infasurf, a lung surfactant that has helped to lower the mortality rate for premature newborns. The Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute named Holm and Egan Pioneers of Science in 2004, and they were awarded the UB Faculty Entrepreneur Award for commercializing the life-saving drug through their Buffalo-based company, ONY Inc.

Robert Genco, UB vice provost and director of UB's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR), said the Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund will be based in STOR, which works to transform the inventions of UB faculty and students into products and services that benefit our community.

"STOR bridges the inventive work of laboratory research with applied commercial development, making solutions available for the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. The Holm Fund will be critical to support needed studies to advance inventions to commercialization," Genco said.

STOR has licensed more than 130 UB faculty inventions in the past 10 years, over 65 of which have evolved into start-up companies in Western New York. Another 85 companies have graduated through STOR's incubator system, employing an estimated 3,300 people and generating $540 million in revenue, primarily in Western New York.

The Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund is the kind of resource used by most major universities "to fill the gap between government-supported basic research, and private investment needed for commercialization of products and services based on faculty inventions," Genco said.

"From 2003 to 2005, Bruce Holm and I ran a pilot study for a catalyst fund. We found that for every dollar invested in gap funding, $28 was returned to the companies," he said.

The anonymous faculty member's $1 million donation has been made as a match challenge, and will be used to finance prototype development, proof-of-concept studies and other research that will advance UB faculty inventions and translate them into useful products and treatments to benefit society. The fund also will help generate revenue for the start-up companies it supports.

Genco said he and the rest of the STOR staff are "tremendously grateful" to the anonymous UB faculty member "who knows, like Bruce Holm knew, how imperative it is for STOR to continue this valuable work, and who also has seen firsthand that federal funding alone can't cover the costs of commercializing these crucial projects."

This gift challenge, if fully met, would mean a total of $2 million to continue UB's efforts to translate faculty inventions into products that meet the needs of society.

"The success of the innovative Western New York companies that STOR supports has shown that UB research is making a difference in our community," Genco said. "From the gastrointestinal diagnostics developed by SmartPill to the lung surfactant developed by ONY, Inc., to the cancer-fighting compounds of Kinex: all are bolstering our regional economy while improving people's lives."

Information about contributing to the Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund can be found online at http://www.research.buffalo.edu/stor/funding/catalystfundapplication.cfm.