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April 05, 2022 | Tom Ballard

UTRF recognizes start-ups, technologies and patents during “Innovation Awards” celebration

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

After a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) resumed its annual “Innovation Awards” event with a recognition ceremony last week in Memphis and yesterday in Knoxville.

“The last two years have been challenging,” said Stacey Patterson, UT Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development as she welcomed attendees to the Student Union Building on the UT, Knoxville campus. “It’s great to be able to again celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship and you.”

Patterson noted that UTRF executed a record number of licenses in 2021 – 51 to be exact. “That’s almost one a week, I remind staff,” she said. As of yesterday, UTRF had 217 active licenses, and 45 of those support start-ups based on technologies from one of UT’s campuses.

Peter Tsai

Yesterday’s celebration included another recognition, this time in a large group setting, of Peter Tsai, the UTK faculty member who invented the technology used in N95 respirators and came out of retirement to help companies seeking to produce his charged nonwoven fabric or scale-up their production. Tsai (pictured here) was presented the UTRF “Legend Award” in honor of his work with the Foundation over more than 25 years.

Yesterday’s event also spotlighted 14 recent licenses that UTRF has executed, nine recent start-ups founded as a result of UT inventions, and 44 patents that have been awarded. One of those was to Joseph Owino and Mbakisya Onyango, two faculty members in the College of Engineering at UT at Chattanooga, Jennifer Skjellum, Commercialization Counselor for the campus, told us it is the first patent that has been awarded in years and maybe ever.

You could hear murmurs in the room when Maha Krishnamurthy, UTRF Vice President, recognized the first of the start-ups and noted how much capital it had already raised – $141 million (see September 2021 article here). The company was Attralus Inc., a San Francisco-based clinical stage biopharmaceutical start-up that counts Jonathan Wall, Professor and Director of Research at the UT Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville, as one of its Founders.

Other start-ups recognized included: (1) Tel Boxx LLC; (2) Endeavor Composites Inc., a member of Cohort 3 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program; (3) EndoTheia Inc.; (4) Behavioral Labs LLC, the first start-up from the UTK College of Social Work; (5) LEAPh Biosystems LLC; (6) Sentinel Devices LLC, a member of Cohort 5 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program; (7) Mobius PBC; and (8) Summit Performance Testing LLC, the latest company from UTK Professor John Sorochan (see our recent post here).

UTRF recognized the teams whose technologies led to licenses recently. They included:

  • Tarek Hewezi, Neal Stewart, Mitra Mazarei and Vince Pantalone for “Novel Soybean Cyst Nematode Resistant Genes”;
  • David Anderson for a “Biodegradable Intraluminal Small Intestinal Anastomotic Guide”;
  • Yilu Liu, Lingwei (Eric) Zhan, Wenxuan Yao, Henry Yin and Fuhua Li for their “Universal Grid Analyzer”;
  • Deidra Mountain, Trey Fisher and Oscar Grandas for “Neutral Liposomes Containing Biologically Active Agents”;
  • Robert Trigiano, Sarah Boggess and Phillip Wadl for “Novel Dogwood Varieties”;
  • Julie Summers for “People Where They Are”;
  • Chunlei, Richard Gerhold and Alycia Chapman for “TgMAT Antigen and TgMAT Kit”;
  • Tsai for “Methods of Preparing Dielectric Non-Woven Materials for Enhanced Air Filtration Efficiencies”;
  • Carmen Lozzio for “K562 Cell Lines”;
  • Matthew Layne for the “Powershed” (see recent article here);
  • Kevin Bai and Liyan Zhu for “High-Efficiency Integrated On-Board Charger and Auxiliary Power Module for EV”;
  • Cong Trinh for “Bioprocessing of Ester Production”;
  • Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes, Heba Abdelgaffar and Rafael Ferreira Dos Santos for “Fall Army Worms”; and
  • Andy Pulte for “Novel Hibiscus Varieties.”

UTRF also recognized more than 100 individuals who shared 44 recently issued patents. Fei (Fred) Wang topped the list of honorees by being named on six of the 44. Daniel Costinett and Charles Melcher earned first runner-up with four patents each.

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