2016 Inventor Award Reception & Ceremony
2016 Inventor of the Year
2016 Emerging Inventor of the Year
ON WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2016, Dr. Jonathan Sessler was revealed as the 2016 Inventor of the Year and Dr. Hal Alper as the 2016 Emerging Inventor of the Year at the 6th Annual Inventor of the Year Ceremony & Reception. Business and technology leaders from around the Austin area joined with The University of Texas at Austin faculty to honor these inventors. Also recognized were those UT Austin researchers who were issued U.S.
Message from the President
Inventors embody UT’s relentless pursuit of possibility. Through creative research and rigorous experimentation, they create technologies and devise techniques that improve our lives and advance society through their inventions. Tonight, we honor two faculty whose research has generated breakthroughs in biotechnology.
Jonathan L. Sessler, the R.P. Doherty, Jr.–Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry, is the Inventor of the Year. Dr. Sessler uses chemistry to prepare new compounds with clinical benefits. He invented a new class of compounds called expanded porphyrins, including texaphyrins. The therapeutic potential of texaphyrins spurred Dr. Sessler to co-found Pharmacyclics, Inc., which developed ibrutinib, a powerful cancer treatment for leukemias and lymphomas. Pharmacyclics, purchased by AbbVie in 2015, became one of the greatest commercial successes from UT. In addition, Dr. Sessler’s pioneering work in anion recognition and electron-transfer chemistry has wide-ranging applications, from anticancer medicines to self-assembling environmentally responsive materials.
The Emerging Inventor of the Year is Hal Alper, Frank A. Liddell, Jr. Centennial Fellow in Chemical Engineering, Fellow of Cockrell Family Dean’s Chair in Engineering Excellence, and Fellow of Paul D. and Betty Robertson Meek Centennial Professorship in Chemical Engineering. Dr. Alper combines engineering approaches with tools and strategies from synthetic biology, systems biology, and protein and genetic engineering. This allows the alteration of cells so that their metabolism can be harnessed to produce sustainable and renewable biochemicals, such as fuels and pharmaceuticals. Dr. Alper is shaping the fields of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, and his methodologies and tools are in high demand from companies and research groups around the world.
Congratulations to Dr. Sessler and Dr. Alper on their accomplishments. Thank you to all of the inventors at UT for demonstrating every day what hard work and inspiration can achieve.
Gregory L. Fenves, President
The University of Texas at Austin
Previous Inventor of the Year Award Recipients:
Previous Emerging Inventor of the Year Award Recipient:
Bios and Videos
2016 Inventor of the Year: Dr. Jonathan Sessler
Dr. Jonathan Sessler does pioneering research to design and tailor molecules that can accomplish specific tasks for medical and technological purposes. His research has implications for improving therapies that treat life-threatening diseases, such as cancer and cystic fibrosis.
Notably, he developed a molecule in his University of Texas at Austin laboratory called texaphyrins, with the potential to target cancer. Dr. Sessler is the co-founder of Pharmacyclics, Inc., a publicly traded company originally dedicated to developing various biomedical applications of expanded porphyrins, the class of compounds to which the texaphrins belong.
The inventor of over 75 issued or allowed U.S. patents, Dr. Sessler has been featured in numerous national and international media reports, most recently in 2015 when Pharmacyclics was sold for $21 billion. Dr. Sessler is the winner of many research and teaching awards, and is a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Inventors. He has authored or coauthored over 660 research publications and three books.
As a cancer survivor who is also a cancer researcher, Dr. Sessler is currently exploring a novel treatment for platinum-resistant solid tumors.
Dr. Sessler received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Stanford University. He holds the Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences.
2016 Emerging Inventor of the Year: Dr. Hal Alper
Dr. Hal Alper focuses his research on Biotechnology, Metabolic and Cellular Engineering, Biofuels, Synthetic Biology, and Systems Biology. He is considered a leader in the fields of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology and has helped refine the metabolic engineering field.
Synthetic Biology is referred to as the design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world or the redesign and fabrication of existing biological systems. This field is rapidly growing and expanding as a tool for organism engineering. In the area of synthetic parts, Dr. Alper has developed a series of transcriptional control elements that provide newfound control of gene expression in cells and he has also helped establish an approach termed “promoter engineering” (PNAS, 102(36), 2005). This highly-cited paper demonstrates that promoter activity can be altered through specifically modifying the DNA sequence.
Dr. Alper received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has received the Young Investigator Award from ACS Biochemical Technology Division, Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology Young Investigator Award, and the Jay Bailey Young Investigator Award in Metabolic Engineering, just to name a few.
Inventors awarded U.S. patents in FY15-16
Daniel R. Boutz
Alan C. Bovik
Steven L. Bryant
Ray T. Chen
Alexander A. Demkov
Kenneth R. Diller
John G. Ekerdt
Christopher J. Ellison
Neal A. Hall
Nishshanka N. Hewa-Kasakarage
Paul S. Ho
Lizy K. John
Keith P. Johnston
Brian A. Korgel
Robert M. Krug
Jack C. Lee
Kevin M. Lee
Edward M. Marcott
James W. McGinity
Thomas E. Milner
Dean P. Neikirk
Nicholas A. Peppas
Gary A. Pope
Agham-Bayan S. Posadas
Henry Grady Rylander III
Christopher G. Rylander
A. Frank Seibert
Mukul M. Sharma
Hugh D. Smyth
Dimitrios L. Sounas
Keith J. Stevenson
Everett M. Stone
Upali P. Weerasooriya
Robert O. Williams III
Carlton G. Willson
Preston S. Wilson
|5:00 – 6:30 pm||
Inventor Award Reception
|6:30 – 6:50 pm||
Inventor Award Program
|6:50 – 7:30 pm||
Inventor Award Ceremony
Recognition of Inventors with FY15-16 U.S. Issued Patents
Associate Vice President for Research and Director,
Office of Technology Commercialization
Texas Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office
Department of Chemical Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering, UT Austin
Department of Chemistry
College of Natural Sciences, UT Austin
1900 University Ave,
Austin, TX 78705