2016 Inventor Award Ceremony & Reception

University of Texas Austin campus at sunset-dusk - aerial view

2016 Inventor of the Year

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2016 Emerging Inventor of the Year

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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.

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Message from the President

President Greg Fenves

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.

(signed) Greg Fenves
Gregory L. Fenves, President
The University of Texas at Austin


Previous Inventor of the Year Award Recipients:

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Previous Emerging Inventor of the Year Award Recipient:

past-winners_emerging

Bios and Videos

2016 Inventor of the Year: Dr. Jonathan Sessler

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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

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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.

 

Patent Holders

Inventors awarded U.S. patents in FY15-16

Andrea Alu
Adela Ben-Yakar
Daniel R. Boutz
Alan C. Bovik
Steven L. Bryant
Ray T. Chen
Alexander A. Demkov
Kenneth R. Diller
John G. Ekerdt
Christopher J. Ellison
George Georgiou
Kristen Grauman
Neal A. Hall
Adam Heller
Matthew Herpin
Nishshanka N. Hewa-Kasakarage
Paul S. Ho
Chun Huh
Lizy K. John
Keith P. Johnston
Donghwan Kim
Jihoon Kim
Brian A. Korgel
Robert M. Krug
Jack C. Lee
Kevin M. Lee
Brad Leonhardt
Arumugam Manthiram
Edward M. Marcott
Jennifer A. Maynard
James W. McGinity
Thomas E. Milner
Kishore Mohanty
Dean P. Neikirk
Praveenkumar Pasupathy
Nicholas A. Peppas
Gary A. Pope
Agham-Bayan S. Posadas
Henry Grady Rylander III
Christopher G. Rylander
A. Frank Seibert
Mukul M. Sharma
Li Shi
Shrawan Singhal
Hugh D. Smyth
Dimitrios L. Sounas
S.V. Sreenivasan
Keith J. Stevenson
Everett M. Stone
Siriam Vishwanath
Zheng Wang
Upali P. Weerasooriya
Robert O. Williams III
Carlton G. Willson
Preston S. Wilson
Zhuojie Wu
Xiaochuan Xu


Agenda

5:00 – 6:30 pm

Inventor Award Reception

6:30 – 6:50 pm

Inventor Award Program

Welcome Remarks
Dan Sharp, Associate Vice President for Research and Director, Office of Technology Commercialization, UT Austin

Speaker Remarks
Hope Shimabuku, Regional Director, Texas Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office

6:50 – 7:30 pm

Inventor Award Ceremony

Recognition of Inventors with FY15-16 U.S. Issued Patents
Dan Sharp, Associate Vice President for Research and Director, Office of Technology Commercialization, UT Austin


Emerging Inventor of the Year Announcement & Video Tribute
Dan Sharp, Associate Vice President for Research and Director, Office of Technology Commercialization, UT Austin


Emerging Inventor of the Year Award Presentation & Remarks
Thomas Truskett, Chair, Department of Chemical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering, UT Austin
Hal Alper, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering, UT Austin


Inventor of the Year Announcement & Video Tribute
Dan Sharp, Associate Vice President for Research and Director, Office of Technology Commercialization, UT Austin


Inventor of the Year Award Presentation & Remarks
Dave Thirumalai, Chair, Department of Chemistry, College of Natural Sciences, UT Austin
Jonathan Sessler, Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Natural Sciences, UT Austin

7:30 pm

Program Concludes

Speakers

dans
Dan Sharp

Associate Vice President for Research and Director, 
Office of Technology Commercialization
UT Austin
 hopes
Hope Shimabuku

Regional Director
Texas Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office
(USPTO)
 thomast
Thomas Truskett

Department Chair
Department of Chemical Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering, UT Austin
 davet
Dave Thirumalai

Department Chair
Department of Chemistry
College of Natural Sciences, UT Austin

Venue

AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center

1900 University Ave,
Austin, TX 78705

att

 

Headline Sponsor

ParkerHighlander


Platinum Sponsor

Meunier


Gold Sponsors

ATT Executive Center

Innovation Center

Dell Medical School

Austin Chamber