President Bruce Benson's newsletter

A message from President Bruce Benson

March 2017

Dear Alumni and Friends,

We often promote the University of Colorado and its four campuses as engines of innovation that help drive our economy. Some people ask me just what that means, and I’m happy to elaborate.

Our stock-in-trade is ideas. Many of those ideas are discussed and debated in our classrooms and across our campuses, but others emerge from our research laboratories and entrepreneurship centers. In the research setting in particular, ideas often become inventions or foster discoveries, and inventions and discoveries often lead to the creation of new companies.

We’ve had a remarkable track record at CU. In just over 20 years, more than 150 startup companies have formed based on our research. Almost two-thirds are in the biotech sector, but we also have strong showings in the physical sciences and engineering, software, and energy and clean technology. Some 80 percent of those startups are still operating and more than 100 have operations in Colorado. Nearly 10 have gone public and another 20 have been acquired by public companies.

All this activity has tremendous ripple effects in terms of ancillary companies, tax revenue and corporate headquarters relocating to Colorado.

CU has deep roots in creating companies, some of which are among the top in the world. For example, CU faculty had an important hand in starting biosciences powerhouse Amgen and Ball Aerospace.

My vision for CU is for it to be one of the top universities in the world. A lot goes into that, but the most important factor is first-rate faculty. Everything flows from great faculty: They help attract top students, conduct research that improves lives and advances knowledge, and display a can-do mindset and a spirit of innovation. One of the things that attracts top faculty is the kind of culture we have here where they are encouraged, supported, rewarded and where there is a track record of success. Our faculty today demonstrate that we are well on our way to achieving our vision.

For example, CU Boulder professor Dr. Larry Gold founded SomaLogic in 2000. The company, still headquartered in Boulder, aims to improve quality of life and wellness by revolutionizing how diseases are detected and diagnosed. It does so by advancing what SomaLogic calls personalized wellness, measuring and then acting on “the complex and ever-changing array of proteins that circulate through our bodies in ways personalized to each of us.”

Dr. Mike Bristow of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus founded Myogen, a clinical stage biotechnology company developing novel products for the treatment of major cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension. It was acquired by Gilead Sciences for $2.5 billion.

Our prowess in space has led to several companies and technologies. CU alumnus Jack Elston founded Black Swift Technologies, which designs and operates unmanned aircraft systems, some of which are used in extreme environments ranging from tornadoes to the Arctic.

Technology developed in part at CU led to the creation of Orbital Micro Systems, which develops a fleet of weather cube satellites for collecting more accurate and faster weather data.

Dr. Michael Holers of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus founded Taligen, a clinical stage biotechnology company developing technologies including antibodies and protein regulators targeting complement inflammatory pathways. It was acquired by Alexion Pharmaceuticals for $111 million.

There are hundreds more examples of CU faculty and technologies leading to companies. Those companies improve the lives of individuals and advance society. They also create high-quality jobs and have a substantial economic impact on Colorado and beyond.

We’re proud of our successful track record in starting companies, licensing technology and moving discoveries from our research laboratories to the marketplace. Our success is testament to our great faculty, which has us well on the way to being one of the top universities in the world.

For feedback, contact 

Bruce D. Benson
Bruce Benson

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