Pandemic innovations highlight 2020 Innovation Awards

Innovation Week, News

OMAHA, Nebraska (October 29, 2020)—UNeMed’s annual Innovation Week festivities concluded today with its 2020 Research Innovation Awards Ceremony, which featured a Most Promising New Invention, the Startup of the Year and the Innovators of the Year.

“The pandemic did not slow down innovation here, in fact it added fuel to the fire,” UNeMed President and CEO Michael Dixon, PhD, said during the 40-minute presentation. “We saw more than twice as many new inventions (73) in the last two quarters of 2020, making it the most productive six-month span in our history.”

For just the second time in the event’s 14-year history, UNeMed recognized the efforts of a group of inventors as the 2020 Innovators of the Year. More specifically, the award went to all UNMC and UNO faculty, students and staff who contributed a new invention related to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic during the fiscal year ending in 2020.

In just a few months, 44 University inventors combined their expertise and experience to create 28 new inventions related to the pandemic.

Download the 2020 Innovation Awards program.

Download the 2020 Innovation Awards program.

Most of those innovations focused on helping protect healthcare providers, and some were fast-tracked to market and used throughout the world. For example, UNMC inventors created an intubation shield that several American hospitals and care facilities purchased. Another device, an infectious disease filter adapter for air masks, sold in bulk quantities to the U.S. Air Force.

Other innovations included mobile applications to help track or screen the pandemic; new mouse models and assays to help improve study of the novel coronavirus responsible for the pandemic; solutions to personal protective equipment shortages; and solutions to limit the spread of infectious disease.

The Most Promising New Invention was the “Anterior Cervical Space Spreader,” a device born from the collaboration of surgeons Joseph McMordie, MD, and Daniel Surdell, MD. Their device is a new approach to c-spine retractors that could help future surgeons increase their access during complicated and delicate neurosurgeries.

Sponsored by UNeTech, the Startup of the Year award went to BreezMed, founded by UNMC psychiatrist Stephen Salzbrenner. BreezMed was founded on a software solution Dr. Salzbrenner created to help doctors and pharmacists better manage patient prescriptions.

The Innovation Awards confers recognition for all UNMC and UNO inventors that, during the previous fiscal year, submitted a new invention, were issued a United States patent or had a technology licensed.

A video of the 2020 Innovation Awards ceremony is also available through UNeMed’s YouTube channel at

More information about Innovation Week and the Innovation Awards ceremony, including its history and awardees, can be found at

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