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December 04, 2016 | Tom Ballard

UTRF recognizes dozens of researchers at “Innovation Awards” luncheon

utrf-innovator-logoBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Dozens of faculty members were honored Friday during the University of Tennessee Research Foundation’s (UTRF) “Innovation Awards” luncheon.

The event, held at The Foundry on the Fair Site, included recognition of one prolific UT researcher who was cited three times and the naming of two winners for the inaugural “UTRF Innovation Driver” award.

A total of 29 researchers received plaques in recognition of patents that have been issued in the past year, and 12 different researchers were honored for the successful licensing of their inventions to commercial entities. Several other awards were also presented.

Neal Stewart, holder of the Ivan Racheff Chair of Excellence in Plant Molecular Genetics and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was recognized for two inventions that UTRF has licensed and a patent that was recently awarded. Two of the honors – the patent and one of the licenses – were shared with other faculty.

Suresh Babu, a Governor’s Chair in Advanced Manufacturing, and Ky Pohler, Assistant Professor of Animal Science, received the “UTRF Innovation Driver” award. They and two others – John Auxier, Assistant Professor of Nuclear Engineering, and Alison McNabb, IT Director in the Graduate School of Medicine – were nominated by UTRF staff for the new recognition.

UTRF Vice President Stacey Patterson said the “UTRF Innovation Driver” award is a way to recognize younger faculty who have submitted their first invention disclosure in the past three years. She explained that it was designed to recognize all of the hard work, drive, enthusiasm and passion that the researchers exhibited.

Dave Stinnett, Founder of IT Advizr, received the “UTRF Start-up Award.”

About 75 people attended the event where keynoter Grady Vanderhoofven, a local venture capitalist, applauded efforts underway at UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and elsewhere to help support the innovation efforts of researchers. He called out the formation of the “Innov865 Alliance” and the region’s inaugural “Innov865 Week” as examples of a growing ecosystem.

Without diminishing the importance of the accomplishments of researchers through their individual inventions and the resulting licenses, Vanderhoofven said the growth of the regional ecosystem is “more important than any single innovation.” The former ORNL licensing executive has been involved in the access to capital area for about 15 years, playing key roles in the launch of the Southern Appalachian Fund in 2003 and Meritus Ventures several years later. More recently, Vanderhoofven has launched Three Roots Capital and is a key driver of the new TennesSeed Fund, a proof of concept initiative.

Citing statistics from the National Venture Capital Association and Launch Tennessee, he noted that 85 percent of the capital being invested in Tennessee is going to companies in Middle Tennessee.

“We have had to innovate to create pools of capital to invest in (these and other) innovations,” Vanderhoofven told the attendees.

License certificate recipients were:

  • Susan Fancher, Tami H. Wyatt, Sheila Taylor, and Xueping Li for a “Simulated Electronic Fetal Monitoring App”;
  • James Foster for an “Antibody for Use in Researching Alzheimer’s Disease”;
  • Veerle Keppens, Michael Koehler, and David Mandrus for “TENN XC – Crystals”;
  • Dean Kopsell for “Natural Plant Pigment as Sunscreen for Specialty Crops”;
  • Alison McNabb for the “Medical Examiner Dashboard”;
  • Stewart for “Strong Constitutive Promoter,”; and
  • Scott Lenaghan and Stewart for “Software to Identify Promoter Motif for Use in Agronomic Crops.”

Patent plaque recipients were:

  • Gladys Alexandre-Jouline, “Microscope Slide-in Chamber”;
  • Olga Ovchinnikova, “Systems & Methods for Laser Assisted Sample Transfer to Solution for Chemical Analysis”;
  • Chengcheng Tian, “Recyclable Acid-polyethylene Grafted Fiber”;
  • Merry Koschan, “Intrinsic Reflectors of Scintillation Detector Elements and Formation Process of Intrinsic Reflectors”;
  • Hugh O’Neill, “Method of Tissue Repair Using a Composite Material”;
  • Siqun Wang and Cheng Xing, “Wood Adhesives Containing Reinforced Additives for Structural Engineering Products”;
  • Booshan Huang and Xiang Shu, “Method and Apparatus for Fatigue and Viscoelastic Property Testing of Asphalt Mixtures Using a Loaded Wheel Tester”;
  • Federico Harte, Vinay Mannam, Stacy Worley, John Wilkerson, and David Smith , “Soak Chamber and System to Measure the Seed Density Hydration Profile of Seeds”;
  • Neal Stewart, Mitra Mazarei, and Wusheng Liu, “Inducible Plant Promoters and the Use Thereof”;
  • Nicole Labbe, Naima Moustaid-Moussa, Doris D’Souza, Kimberly Gwinn, and Bonnie Ownley, “Anti Inflammatory Properties of Switchgrass Extracts”;
  • Stephen Kania and Linda Frank, “Detection and Differentiation of Dermodex Mites”; and
  • Fan Xu, Ben Guo, Leon Tolbert, Fred (Fei) Wang, and Benjamin Blalock, “Three-Phase Buck Rectifier for Power Supplies”

Pictured below are the inaugural recipients of the “UTRF Innovation Driver” award with Patterson.


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