NUtech Ventures is the university’s intellectual property and technology commercialization unit. NUtech’s mission is to facilitate the commercialization and practical use of innovations generated through Nebraska research activities to promote economic development and improve quality of life.
Chancellor Ronnie Green and Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Steve Goddard spoke at the event, which highlighted this year’s NUtech Ventures Innovator Celebration awards and their recipients.
The Prem S. Paul Innovator of the Year award went to Donald Weeks, emeritus professor of biochemistry, for developing a novel approach to engineering herbicide-resistant crops that will significantly impact agricultural productivity in Nebraska and worldwide. Weeks’ team developed soybean plants that are resistant to a common herbicide used to control broadleaf plants, giving producers an important tool for controlling weeds. Monsanto and its sublicensees are commercializing the technology under the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend brand in soybeans and cotton.
The Career Innovation award went to Stephen Taylor, professor of food science and technology, for his research on food allergens and the founding of the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. FARRP scientists developed the first assay for peanut residues, which was licensed to Neogen Corp. Neogen released the first commercial peanut kit in 1999 and has subsequently released many additional allergen testing kits.
The Breakthrough Innovation of the Year award went to Jinsong Huang, professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and postdoc research associates Haotong Wei and Wei Wei for developing improved X-ray detectors based on a perovskite material that are expected to reduce the X-ray dose required for medical imaging, security and quality control applications, greatly enhancing the efficacy and safety of those techniques.
The Startup Company of the Year award went to Virtual Incision, a privately held medical device company focused on developing an advanced, miniaturized robot for general surgery abdominal procedures. Virtual Incision was founded on University of Nebraska-licensed technology by faculty members Shane Farritor, professor of mechanical engineering at Nebraska, and Dmitry Oleynikov, chief of minimally invasive surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The Commercialization Partner of the Year award went to Neogen Corp. Neogen has worked closely with FARRP since its inception and successfully developed and marketed allergen testing kits based on University of Nebraska technology for nearly 20 years. James Herbert, Neogen’s chairman and CEO, accepted the award on behalf of the company. The company’s headquarters and food safety division are in Lansing, Michigan. Additionally, Neogen’s GeneSeek Operations, based in Lincoln, is the leading global provider of DNA testing for animal agribusiness and veterinary medicine.