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Where Harvard Lags

Harvard University isn't benefitting as much as other institutions from the scientific research that goes on in its labs, Stat News reports.

The news site conducted an analysis that drew on data from the Association of University Technology Managers to rank universities based on the number of faculty inventions licensed or optioned to industry, efficiency in converting research to commercial discoveries, and incoming royalties.

Harvard, despite it proximity to a biotech hub, placed 25th among universities for the number of licensed inventions, 20th in efficiency, and 27th in royalties, it found.

"Harvard — used to being at the top of most rankings that count — isn't even in the same league as many US universities by several measures of success in commercializing faculty research," Stat News' Rebecca Robbins writes.

A number of the universities that outrank Harvard in revenue had blockbuster products a number of years ago that are still paying off, like number 16, the University of Florida's Gatorade, which dates back to the 1960s, and number 19, the University of Illinois' HIV drug Prezista, from the 1990s.

Harvard, Robbins says, hasn't had that break, and as it focuses on drug development where failure rates are high, she says there is often high investment with little payoff. In addition, when research does seem promising, it sometimes is licensed by research hospitals as many Harvard faculty hold joint appointments.

"Harvard is still waiting to see if a discovery made long ago will pay off in the near-term — or if a gem lurking in a Boston laboratory right now might pay dividends in the future," she adds.