Researchers, business leaders honored at annual awards ceremony

By Staff

The University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office hosted its annual awards Tuesday, Jan. 18, honoring six faculty researchers, two companies founded on university research, and several members of the local entrepreneurial community.

The CU Technology Transfer Office recognized this year's honorees during a banquet at the historic Tivoli Turnhalle on the Auraria Campus.

Over the past two decades, CU researchers have developed technologies that have led to the creation of 103 new companies. Of these, 79 have operations in Colorado, seven have "gone public," becoming publicly traded companies (either through an IPO or via a reverse merger), and 12 have been acquired by public companies. Companies created based on CU technology have attracted more than $4 billion in financing.

"CU plays a big part in the economy of Colorado and the lives of Colorado's citizens, and technology transfer – the process of conveying university research inventions to companies – is one dimension of that impact," said David Allen, associate vice president for technology transfer at CU. "Most of the companies that license CU technology operate in Colorado. This event recognizes excellence in the people and licensee companies that are part of the CU technology transfer environment."

Faculty and companies recognized this year represent all CU campuses, and are developing technologies ranging from biofuels and hybrid aircraft engines to novel treatments for cancer, heart disease and eye disease. This year's award winners:

Ryan T. Gill, Inventor of the Year, CU-Boulder. Gill, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, is developing new tools and applications for directed evolution of genomes. In particular, his work focuses on metabolic engineering for sustainable bio-diesel and bio-gasoline production. Technology from the Gill lab has formed the basis of OPX Biotechnologies, a venture-backed Boulder company making renewable bio-based chemicals and fuels that are lower cost, offer higher returns and are more sustainable than existing petroleum-based products.

Malik Y. Kahook and Naresh Mandava; Inventors of the Year, Anschutz Medical Campus. Kahook, an associate professor of ophthalmology, and Mandava, chair of ophthalmology, work on novel treatment for eye diseases including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal detachment.

Jean N. Koster, New Inventor of the Year, CU-Boulder. A professor of aerospace engineering, Koster has done work expanding the concepts of hybrid vehicles to airplanes; his team's research is the foundation of a new company, Tigon EnerTec.

Dan Theodorescu, New Inventor of the Year, Anschutz Medical Campus. Theodorescu, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, has demonstrated efficacy of a new class of drugs in the treatment or bladder, prostate and lung cancer and successfully formed a collaboration team to pursue new compounds to take into clinical trials.

Rory A. Lewis; New Inventor of the Year, UCCS. An assistant professor of computer sciences, Lewis developed a social medial platform for addiction recovery that is now optioned to Syberenety Inc., a Colorado Springs startup company that won a Phase I SBIR award to develop the technology.

miRagen Therapeutics; Bioscience Company of the Year. Boulder-based miRagen Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company focused on improving patients' lives by developing innovative microRNA (miRNA)-based therapeutics for cardiovascular and muscle disease. miRagen has raised $12 million in capital from several top-tier venture firms.

Sundrop Fuels; Physical Sciences/Engineering/IT Company of the Year. Louisville-based Sundrop Fuels is a solar gasification-based renewable energy company developing a technology to turn any type of plant material into ultra-clean, affordable liquid transportation fuel for use in today's automobiles, diesel engines and aircraft. In September 2009, Sundrop began operations at an 80 kW (thermal) solar research facility in Broomfield; the company plans to build a full-scale commercial plant capable of producing 100 million gallons of fuel a year by 2015.

Lauren C. Constantini; Business Adviser of the Year. Constantini has over 15 years of experience in pharmaceutical development and is a recognized leader in the area of central nervous system (CNS); she is a frequent participant in review and strategy sessions used to move forward development of CU technologies and start-up companies.

Mikhail "Misha" Plam; Serial University Startup Entrepreneur Award. Plam has built a distinguished career on successfully bringing university innovations to market. He has founded three companies based on inventions from the University of Colorado: AmideBio, BiOptix Inc. and Sievers Instruments (acquired by GE).

James C. T. Linfield; Colorado Technology Infrastructure Leadership Award. Linfield is a partner in the Cooley LLP Business department and Partner-in-Charge of their Colorado office; he serves on the advisory boards of numerous CU entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives, and is among the leaders promoting new initiatives and collaboration strategies in Colorado.