NUtech Ventures recognized University of Nebraska–Lincoln innovators and partner companies at the Nov. 4 Innovator Celebration. The annual event honors faculty, staff, students and companies who have worked with NUtech.
As a nonprofit affiliate of the university, NUtech commercializes intellectual property developed through Nebraska research activities — with the goal of promoting economic development and improving quality of life.
Brad Roth, NUtech executive director, opened the celebration, followed by remarks from Bob Wilhelm, vice chancellor of research and economic development, Ronnie Green, chancellor, and Molly Kocialski, director of the rocky mountain regional office of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
“University researchers and innovators are doing pivotal work for the good of Nebraska and the world,” said Green, who also serves on NUtech’s board of directors. “They are providing innovative solutions to problems, enhancing quality of life and growing the state’s economy.”
Prem S. Paul Innovator of the Year
The Prem S. Paul Innovator of the Year award went to Shane Farritor, chief technical officer of Virtual Incision and Lederer Professor of mechanical and materials engineering. The award recognizes an individual who exemplifies innovation and entrepreneurship by advancing novel research into significant commercial use.
Farritor is a co-founder of Virtual Incision, a university spin-off company developing miniaturized robots for general surgery abdominal procedures, such as colon resections. The company has more than 140 issued patents and patent applications, and has raised millions of dollars to advance its technology.
Breakthrough Innovation of the Year
The Breakthrough Innovation of the Year award went to Gary Pickard, professor of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences, and Patricia Sollars, associate professor of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences. The team has developed a herpes vaccine that has been successfully tested on mice. The research has further implications for animal protection and cancer treatments in humans.
Emerging Innovator of the Year
The Emerging Innovator of the Year award went to Eric Weaver, assistant professor of biological sciences. He is developing a universal flu vaccine using an epigraph model, which has 16 components rather than the typical four. This goal of this research is to effectively protect against all known flu strains, resulting in vaccines that could be used for animals and humans.
Startup Company of the Year
The Startup Company of the Year award went to Drone Amplified, headed by co-founder Carrick Detweiler, Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of computer science and engineering. The company’s drone-mounted technology uses ping-pong sized spheres that ignite prescribed burns and backfires, starving incoming wildfires of potential fuel. It also provides a safer alternative for crews who would otherwise fight wildfires by aircraft or vehicle.
Commercialization Partner of the Year
The Commercialization Partner of the Year award went to Bayer Crop Science, which licensed university plant genetics technology and incorporated it into herbicide-resistant soybeans and cotton. The gene technology helps farmers improve yields by controlling weeds and was developed by Nebraska’s Donald Weeks, emeritus Maxcy Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Tom Clemente, Eugene W. Price Distinguished Professor of Biotechnology.