TLA Showcases UA Inventors, Startups, Partners at I-Squared Expo and Awards

TLA Showcases UA Inventors, Startups, Partners at I-Squared Expo and Awards

By Paul TumarkinTech Launch Arizona
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Douglas Loy
Douglas Loy
Vijay Gokhale
Vijay Gokhale
Abraham Jalbout
Abraham Jalbout
Katina Koller
Katina Koller

Two University of Arizona faculty members and the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship were honored Tuesday at Tech Launch Arizona's fourth annual I-Squared awards ceremony, which honors those whose work directly affects the quality of life for people in Tucson, across Arizona and throughout the world through research, collaboration and technology commercialization.

Tech Launch Arizona is the UA office that creates social and economic impact by bringing the inventions stemming from UA research from the lab to the world.

The honorees were:

Douglas Loy
Inventor of the Year, Physical Sciences

Loy holds a dual appointment as professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science and professor of materials science and Engineering in the College of Engineering. He is a prolific inventor, with 15 inventions to his name, ranging from florescent epoxies to sunscreens to antioxidants. He has participated in the TLA National Science Foundation I-Corps program and is highly engaged with TLA through senior licensing manager Paul Eynott.

Vijay Gokhale
Inventor of the Year, Life Sciences

Gokhale is the director of computational chemistry at the Computer Aided Drug Discovery Center at the BIO5 Institute's Drug Discovery Center. As a research-track professional, he has worked with TLA and a number of principal investigators as a co-inventor on multiple projects related to the discovery of small molecule inhibitors for the treatment of pain, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more.

MetOxs Electrochemical
Startup of the Year

MetOxs Solutions is run by Abraham Jalbout, an academic entrepreneur who understands both business and science. MetOxs has licensed a number of technologies from the UA to address environmental and energy issues in mining, with a long view toward making the industry more sustainable. Technologies MetOxs has licensed include molten salt metal extraction methods and systems, heat recovery systems, and the HexoPanel – developed by Moe Momayez, associate professor of mining and geological engineering.  MetOxs also licensed corrosion sensors – invented by Jalbout, Hassan Elsentriecy and two UA faculty members: Dominic Gervasio, a research professor of chemical and environmental engineering, and Peiwen "Perry" Li, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering. Along with starting the subsidiary Caltrode for commercializing the sensors, MetOxs recently started subsidiary Acrete based on a novel, fly ash-based substitute for concrete invented by Jinhong Zhang, associate professor of mining and geological engineering. Jalbout continues to be a highly-engaged UA partner, always looking ahead to more discoveries, inventions and opportunities for collaboration.

McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship
Campus Collaborator of the Year

The McGuire Center of Entrepreneurship has been an indispensable partner in TLA's execution of the NSF I-Corps program at the UA, and with the entrance of Remy Arteaga as director of the center, that relationship has only become stronger. As McGuire educates students, they sometimes take on commercialization projects centered on UA technologies. In these cases, TLA mentors-in-residence and licensing managers work closely with student teams and McGuire leadership to create rich, diverse, extended, cross-disciplinary teams.

Katina Koller
Ecosystem Impact of the Year

Koller is chief executive officer of Wisconsin-based cable manufacturer Northwire Inc. and a highly-engaged volunteer TLA commercialization partner. She is an active participant in TLA's weekly roundtable discussions related to technology advancement, and has served as a mentor for NSF I-Corps teams.

The awards were presented during a ceremony at the Jim Click Hall of Champions at McKale Memorial Center. For the first time, this year's event included an expo that showcased products and other technology from 10 UA startups that were built to commercialize inventions from across the University, including:

  • A beating heart graft from Avery Therapeutics, invented at the College of Medicine.
  • A new high-altitude inflatable antenna from FreeFall, invented at the Steward Observatory and the College of Optical Sciences.
  • A variety of solutions for mining and energy production from MexOxs, invented at the College of Engineering.
  • A dual-view endoscope from Omnicient, invented at the College of Optical Sciences.
  • A DNA quadraplex master switch to turn off cancer genes from Reglagene, invented at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the College of Pharmacy.
  • Small molecule inhibitors for chronic pain from Regulonix, invented at the College of Medicine – Tucson.
  • A tunable VECSEL – or vertical external-cavity surface emitting laser – which can generate spectrally tunable light and multiple wavelengths, from the ultraviolet to the far infrared, from TPhotonics, invented at the College of Optical Sciences.            

"We chose to bring these companies out at a platform like this to show how the vast range of UA research is being brought to bear on real-world problems through commercial pathways," said David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona.

TLA invited four of the startups – Avery Therapeutics, Regulonix, BDIAB and Reglagene – to deliver 10-minute company pitches to a room of about 100 people and then answer rapid-fire audience questions.

"They all have great stories to tell. It was hard to choose just four to pitch, but time was limited" he said. "They all did a wonderful job."

The teams who pitched will travel with Tech Launch Arizona to Silicon Valley the first week in May to tell their stories at TechCode, a global startup incubator that TLA has partnered with to increase the reach and effectiveness of UA inventions and startups.  

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