Innovation at ‘Cellicon Valley’

Key facts and figures about ongoing efforts towards translating discoveries and ideas into products and businesses at the Penn Center for Innovation.


Innovation is a word that gets used often at Penn, and for good reason. As the fourth-ranked most innovative university in the world, Penn’s 189 research centers and institutes are pushing the boundaries in fields ranging from behavioral psychology to quantum computing.  

Supporting Penn’s research community is the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI), an organization that helps translate Penn faculty discoveries and ideas into products and businesses. Some of PCI’s resources include the Innovator’s Help Desk, a digital tool to help the Penn community navigate the commercialization process, and the PCI fellows program, which provides graduate and postdoctoral researchers with experience working on a range of emerging technologies and commercialization opportunities. 

To mark the upcoming fourth annual celebration of innovation, Penn Today delves into key facts and figures related to PCI’s efforts during the past fiscal year and highlights some of the technologies and companies coming from Penn. 

    • 708

      Number of patent applications filed, with 97 U.S. patents issued.

      One recent patent application covers work done by the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s James Pikul and doctoral candidate Zakaria Hsain, who developed a bonelike metal foam that can “heal” at room temperature. The material’s strut-and-gap internal structure reduces weight while maintaining overall strength. 

    • 722

      Executed commercial agreements, the highest in PCI history, along with $114 million in annual licensing revenue. 

      Caballeta Bio, a biopharmaceutical company focused on cellular therapies for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, signed an exclusive license agreement and two multiyear sponsored research agreements with Penn to advance CAAR T research. Cabaletta Bio and Penn will work on the first CAAR T product for the treatment of mucosal pemphigus vulgaris based on proof-of-concept data by Penn Medicine researchers Aimee Payne and Michael Milone.

    • $104 million

      Financial support received by Penn researchers under industry-sponsored research agreements. 

      PCI recently helped facilitate a $91 million multiyear collaboration between Penn’s Gene Therapy Program (GTP), led by James M. Wilson of the Perelman School of Medicine, and biopharmaceutical company Amicus Therapeutics. GTP and Amicus will conduct R&D on gene therapies for a variety of rare diseases including Pompe disease, Fabry disease, and CDKL5 deficiency.

    • 14

      PCI-facilitated spinout companies, who have collectively raised $260 million in funding during the 2019 fiscal year. 

      As the winner of the inaugural JPOD @ Philadelphia QuickFire challenge, the startup company Chip Diagnostics, based on research from the lab of David Issadore of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, develops technologies and digital assays for use on mobile devices as a way to provide minimally invasive early cancer detection and screening.

    • 97

      Press highlights from the past fiscal year, including Penn’s No. 1 ranking in patent filings for cell and gene therapy by Nature Biotechnology, as well as being named as the core of life sciences startups in “Cellicon Valley.”

    • 45

      Informative and educational events on a variety of topics focusing on innovation, technology commercialization, new company formation, and entrepreneurship hosted at the Pennovation Center.  

      This spring, PCI partnered with the Philadelphia Alliance of Capital and Technology to showcase the Pennovation Center’s robotics labs for Philly Tech Week. The event included demonstrations from startups, faculty, and students, with a focus on advances in robotics, drones, and AI technologies.

    • 40+

      Resident companies which now call the Pennovation Center home. 

      Membership continues to grow, with new tenants joining on a regular basis, including three winners of the President's Innovation Prize: Avisi Technologies, InstaHub, and Strella Biotechnology