Brown ranks among Top 100 universities nationally in new patents issued

As Brown researchers work to turn discoveries into therapies, services and devices that can benefit people, the University was recognized as one of the top schools in the nation for utility patents granted in 2023.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University ranks among the top 100 universities in the nation for the number of utility patents issued in 2023, according to a list released by the National Academy of Inventors and based on federal government data. Published annually, the ranking highlights universities that play a significant role in advancing innovation and invention in the United States.

Brown secured 22 utility patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office last year based on work by faculty members and investors on campus, landing the No. 72 slot on the Top 100 list.

“This recognition by the National Academy of Inventors shows both the productivity of Brown faculty and the University's commitment to protecting and commercializing intellectual property,” said Neil Veloso, executive director of Brown Technology Innovations.

Brown Technology Innovations, the University's technology transfer office, supports the commercialization of technology and research discoveries made by Brown faculty and researchers and is responsible for managing the university’s patent portfolio.

“Commercialization allows Brown researchers to extend the impact of their science by creating goods and services that can further benefit society,” Veloso said.

According to Veloso, when a Brown researcher makes a new discovery — often described in a pre-publication manuscript, thesis, poster or abstract — Brown Technology Innovations can evaluate its potential for novelty and patentability through an invention disclosure process, protect it through filing patent applications and work to commercialize the invention by licensing it to a new startup company.

Brown has an intellectual property policy that rewards inventors, departments and deans for patents that generate royalties, Veloso explained. And if the patent is not issued, or the technology is not commercialized, then the University bears the cost of that filing, he said.

“There is no risk to the researcher; this is a service Brown provides to faculty,” Veloso said.

As an example of how Brown Technology Innovations office supports the commercialization of research, Veloso pointed to U.S. Patent 11,793,814: “Compositions and methods for treating, preventing or reversing age-associated inflammation and disorders.”

This patent, issued in October 2023, stems from research led by John Sedivy, a Brown professor of biology and associate dean and director of Division of Biology and Medicine’s Center on the Biology of Aging, on the mechanisms of inflammation that are a hallmark of ageing. This research led to the discovery that a class of drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors could be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as progressive supranuclear palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal dementia, and eventually, Alzheimer’s Disease.

The patent was licensed to a startup company Sedivy co-founded called Transposon Therapeutics, which is currently developing new proprietary reverse transcriptase inhibitors. Sedivy is conducting a clinical trial at Brown and Butler Hospital using a non-proprietary, FDA-approved reverse transcriptase inhibitor known as emtricitabine to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

“The patent is on the scientific discoveries made in the lab than can be used to develop therapeutics to treat people with neurodegenerative diseases,” Sedivy said.

Brown Technology Innovations helped to coordinate and streamline the patent application process, Sedivy said, allowing his team to focus on making new discoveries. He said that additional patent applications have been submitted based on his research team’s findings.

“Ultimately, the work from Professor Sedivy's lab, protected by Brown patents, may become a new treatment to help patients,” Veloso said. “That shows the arc and value of commercialization.”

The rankings from the National Academy of Inventors aim to provide a comprehensive view of intellectual property protection. The Top 100 U.S. Universities ranking was introduced last year to serve as a complement to NAI’s Top 100 Worldwide Universities list and provide a more focused view of the national innovation landscape and the contributions made by U.S. academic institutions.

“As we look at the current and future state of innovation in our nation, we need to ensure that the U.S. is remaining competitive in the international innovation ecosystem,” said NAI President Paul R. Sanberg. “Protecting intellectual property is a key component to this, and the Top 100 U.S. Universities list allows us to recognize and celebrate universities and their faculty, staff and students who are not only innovating at high levels, but taking the additional step of protecting their I.P. through patenting.”