2nd Annual UCI Innovator Awards Ceremony Recognizes Distinguished Researchers and Inventors

June 3, 2019 - Eagerly awaiting to hear if their name would be called as a winner, top researchers and faculty members from UC Irvine (UCI) gathered at the Cove @ UCI for the 2nd annual UCI Innovator Awards ceremony.

UCI Beall Applied Innovation, with support from the Beall Family Foundation, created this award to recognize UCI researchers who are working actively to promote commercialization of university intellectual property. This can be done through invention disclosures filed, patents applied for and/or received, technologies licensed or startup companies formed. These activities support economic development in the region and benefit the public good.

“The Innovation Awards are just the beachhead of our collaborative efforts,” said Richard Sudek, UCI chief innovation officer and executive director of UCI Beall Applied Innovation. “Our goal is to increase the innovation culture on campus and accelerate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.”

There are three award categories and nominations were submitted by deans and leaders of special research programs and were then reviewed by a selection committee.

Here are the nominees and winners for each category:

2019 Emerging Innovation/Early Career Innovator of the Year: These distinguished innovators have demonstrated excellence in the early stage of their career, or in the early stages of an innovation breakthrough, through a combined effort in outstanding research and innovation.

  • Shane Ardo, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, School of Physical Sciences
  • Sunil Gandhi, Associate Professor Neurobiology and Behavior, School of Biological Sciences
  • Mo Li, Assistant Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering, Henry Samueli School of Engineering

The 2019 Emerging Innovation/Early Career Innovator of the Year awardee: Mo Li
Professor Li’s research focuses on advancing infrastructure engineering through discovery of innovative materials and through understanding and enabling the interfaces between materials, structures, and advanced manufacturing methods. This is an important area of research given the aging infrastructure of the U.S. and the need to reinforce existing structures and build new ones.

Nominees for Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year: These distinguished innovators have demonstrated an enterprising spirit and drive by taking one or more significant innovations developed in the University through to market-readiness and also provided inspiration and empowerment to others to adopt entrepreneurism.

  • Chris Barty, Professor, Physics and Astronomy, School of Physical Sciences and also Department of Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Elliot Botvinick, Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Beckman Laser Institute
  • Aimee Edinger, Associate Professor Developmental and Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences
  • Tony Givargis, Professor, Computer Science, Vice Chair of Undergraduate Studies, Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences
  • Jeffrey Krichmar, Professor, Cognitive Sciences, School of Social Sciences

The 2019 Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year awardee: Elliot Botvinick

Professor Botvinick is a leader in advancing medical device research and development and bringing his research to commercialization. Current devices from his lab are aimed at treatment and diagnoses of trauma and type-1 diabetes. His group has developed a continuous monitor for blood lactate, which is an important real-time biomarker for organ failure and death in injured soldiers and civilians, including those in what is termed cryptic shock.

Nominees for Innovator of the Year: These distinguished innovators have demonstrated excellence by developing a breakthrough idea, process, or technology and demonstrated its transformational potential to improve lives and create economic value.

  • Christopher C.W. Hughes, Professor and Chair, School of Biological Sciences
  • Kumar Wickramasinghe, The Henry Samueli Endowed Chair in Engineering and Professor Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Henry Samueli School of Engineering
  • Eric Potma, Professor, Chemistry, School of Physical Sciences

The 2019 Innovator of the Year awardee: Christopher C.W. Hughes
What is termed “precision medicine” in cancer therapeutics often simply involves a biopsy of your tumor, comparing its DNA mutations to a database of thousands of other tumors, and a treatment regimen is then recommended based on what has worked in the past for similar patients. The research Christopher Hughes is doing will help develop a true precision medicine platform which can not only be tailored to an individual cancer patient, but also used to lower drug development costs by improving the accuracy of drug discovery and validation.

UCI Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia was also in attendance to announce the winner of each category.

“Today for a university to advance and thrive, it must demonstrate an understanding that innovation and entrepreneurship are different,” said Lavernia. “While innovation serves up a promise, entrepreneurship is the delivery on that promise.”

The Innovator Awards will be an annual celebration of UCI’s innovators and entrepreneurial leaders. For more information about UCI Beall Applied Innovation, please go to www.innovation.uci.edu.

- Chela Castaño / UCI Beall Applied Innovation

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