More than 70 faculty and staff were recognized for their work to bring big ideas to life at the University of Louisville’s 2023 Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards, held April 18.
The event, hosted by the UofL Office of Research and Innovation, honored faculty and staff from five schools and colleges for accomplishments in developing new technologies, working with industry and launching research-backed startups.
“We like to say UofL’s ‘igniting innovation’ — and that’s absolutely true,” said president Kim Schatzel, giving opening remarks at the event. “Since joining the UofL community, I’ve seen that our campus is full-to-bursting with creativity and ideas, some with the power to transform the way we live and work. If UofL is igniting innovation, our innovators are the spark, and the work they do has a lasting and positive impact here on our campus and well beyond.”
Six major awards were also presented, including Innovator of the Year. This year, that honor went to School of Medicine researcher Nobuyuki Matoba, recognized for his work to tackle devastating diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, through groundbreaking new vaccines, immunotherapeutics and treatments that leverage protein engineering and plant-based biotechnology.
In addition to Matoba, major awards were also presented to:
- Dan Popa, of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, who won the Catalyst Award for his work to build an environment that encourages innovation at the Louisville Automation and Robotics Research Institute (LARRI);
- Geoff Clark, Joe Burlison and Kenneth Palmer, of the School of Medicine, who won the Industry Partnership Award for their longstanding commercialization relationship with Qualigen Therapeutics;
- Cheri Levinson and Christina Ralph-Nearman, of the College of Arts and Sciences, who won a Trailblazer Award for their work to develop novel virtual reality and personalized treatment tools for eating disorders and launch a startup, Awaken Digital Health Solutions, to drive them to market;
- Kunal Kate, of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, who won a Trailblazer Award in part for his work with the Kentucky MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center to help minority-owned businesses leverage cutting-edge technology;
- Noppadon Sathitsuksanoh, of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, who won the night’s final Trailblazer Award for his work to develop new ways of producing sustainable fuels and chemicals from waste materials;
Over the past two years, 57 of the honorees earned new patents, 28 had their technology optioned or licensed to a company and 68 were awarded innovation grants, such as KYNETIC or PRePARE, aimed at driving technologies to market. In the past fiscal year, the work of these innovators led to one new startup, 319 agreements, 49 new patents and $15.6 million in innovation-related income.
UofL Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation Kevin Gardner, whose office organizes the event, said those numbers represent real-world impact — and more, impact that can save and improve lives.
“The innovations our researchers are developing have the potential to diagnose, treat and cure disease and overall make the way we live and work better,” he said. “What we celebrate reflects what we value as an institution — and with awards like these, we show that we value entrepreneurship and innovation.”