Innovation Institute celebrates new technologies, start-ups and patents

At the Innovation Institute’s 13th annual Celebration of Innovation on Dec. 3, faculty, staff and students who have had their technologies licensed from the University or formed start-up companies will be honored, and several special awards will be given out.

During the 2017-18 fiscal year, the University set a new record for start-ups, with 23, and 98 patents were awarded for Pitt-based innovations. Already in the first four months of the new fiscal year, 24 patents have been awarded.

The award winners include:

Stephen Badylak

Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award: 
Stephen Badylak

This lifetime achievement award, now in its third year, recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated a commitment to innovation commercialization. Badylak, a professor of surgery and deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is a pioneer in the field of extracellular matrixes, which are used for tissue regeneration to treat a variety of diseases and conditions. He is among the University’s all-time leaders in disclosures filed, patents issued, and licenses executed. His new company, ECM Therapeutics, for which he is the chief science officer, was one of the record 23 startups that spun out of Pitt last year.

Emerging Innovator Award: 
Maliha Zahid

This new award recognizes a faculty member who has not been active long enough to be among the University’s all-time statistical leaders in commercialization activity but has demonstrated a passion for innovation commercialization through participation in Innovation Institute and other University education and mentoring programs and competitions. Zahid, assistant professor in the Department of Developmental Biology, has led two projects that have both secured $100,000 prizes in the Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh) competition —  CardioTrak in 2016 and LungHealth-E this year.

James “Chip” Hanlon Volunteer Mentor Award: 
Robert Huemmrich (Business ’86, graduate)

The Hanlon Award, now in its second year, recognizes those individuals who give their time to help Pitt innovation teams navigate the commercialization process. Huemmrich is a retired engineer who served for nine years as director of a technology incubator at Clarion University of Pennsylvania and was a founding member of the Western Pennsylvania Adventure Capital Fund. He has mentored seven teams in the Pitt Ventures First Gear program and six in the Pitt Ventures Fourth Gear program, which includes teams external to Pitt in partnership with BlueTree Allied Angels and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Student Innovator Award: 
Daniel Chi and Brandon Contino (both engineering, ’17) for their project Four Growers

Four Growers was this year’s winner of the Randall Family Big Idea Competition. The team also captured second place in the ACC InVenture Prize Competition and became Pitt’s first team to compete in the Rice Business Plan Competition. They recently participated in Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, Calif., which is considered by many to be the world’s most prestigious startup accelerator. The founders are aiming to have their initial product for robotic greenhouse produce harvesting on the market by late 2019.

The awards ceremony will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Alumni Hall. Register here.