OMAHA, Nebraska (November 3, 2023)—UNeMed’s annual Innovation Week concluded last night with its Research Innovation Awards Ceremony, with UNMC researcher Rebekah Gundry, PhD, taking top honors as UNeMed’s Emerging Inventor.
Other top awards included the Startup of the Year and the Most Promising New Invention of 2023.
The ceremony featured remarks from UNMC Vice Chancellor for Research Ken Bayles, PhD, before UNeMed CEO and President Michael Dixon, PhD, delivered a short presentation in review of the previous fiscal year.
Dr. Bayles opened the evening with remarks that touched on the “long journey” that can take an innovation from an idea to a commercialized technology that benefits people everywhere.
“You’ve got to have that grit to take the seed of an idea and make through the highs and lows,” Dr. Bayles said.
Dr. Bayles, who also served as associate vice chancellor for research and creative activity at UNO, also highlighted a key strength of Nebraska’s Omaha campuses.
“You hear people come from the outside and say how great it is here (in Omaha),” he said. “Fundamentally, I think it’s the people. That’s our advantage over the coasts…we just work together really well.”
The awards ceremony recognized all UNMC and UNO inventors who contributed to a new invention disclosure, had a U.S. patent issued or had a technology licensed.
Dr. Gundry, the Stokes-Shakelford Professor and Chair of UNMC’s Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, earned the Emerging Inventor award in recognition of her innovations and accomplishments in the field of mass spectrometry, bioinformatics and cell surfaceome.
Dr. Gundry, who earned her doctorate from Johns Hopkins in 2006, is an inventor on eight new inventions over the last five years. Her work focuses primarily on developing and applying novel mass spectrometry-based technologies and bioinformatics tools to better understand cell surface glycoproteins and glycans. Several pharmaceutical companies have expressed an interest in working with Dr. Gundry and her innovative technologies in pursuit of new therapeutics.
UNeMed presented a trio of UNMC clinical faculty with the 2023 Startup of the Year Award: Michael Wadman, MD; Thang Nguyen, PhD; and Wesley Zeger, DO.
The trio are co-founders of the UNMC startup, University Medical Devices, Inc., which was built around one of their inventions: MicroWash.
MicroWash is a new alternative to collecting nasal samples rather than the intrusive and uncomfortable swabbing technique that gained notoriety during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
University Medical Devices was accepted into NMotion’s 2022 Growth Accelerator cohort, and is currently in the process of closing a $1.5 million seed financing round.
Finally, UNeMed presented the Most Promising New Invention of 2023 award to a collaborative team of UNO and UNMC innovators.
Three UNO researchers from the biomechanics department—Alexey Kamenskiy, PhD; Anastasia Desytova, PhD; and Ali Akbar Ahmadi—teamed with UNMC surgeon, Jason MacTaggart, MD, to create the “Optimized Vascular Stent.”
The invention is a promising solution to vascular stents in the legs, which are notoriously difficult to successfully implant because leg vessels are delicate. The repeated bending of the leg can damage the vessel, stent or both. The inventors are working on prototypes that can balance improved durability while avoiding increasing the risk of damaging the femoropopliteal artery in the legs.
Innovation Week began, Monday, Oct. 30 with the Kick-Off, which featured free T-shirts, coffee and doughnuts, along with the chance to meet UNeMed staff. I-Week also featured a panel discussion of Women Innovators, a seminar about clearing regulatory hurdles in drug development applications, and a startup showcased that featured several new companies built on University of Nebraska innovations.
More information about Innovation Week and the Innovation Awards ceremony, including its history and awardees, can be found at https://www.unemed.com/innovation-week.