Chancellor Patrick Gallagher shares a laugh with Nicole Xu, winner of the Student Innovator Award, at the 12th Annual Celebration of Innovation reception and award ceremony held at the Connolly Ballroom, Wednesday, November 29, 2017.




The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute hosted its 12th Celebration of Innovation on November 29, 2017, at Alumni Hall, Connolly Ballroom.

The Celebration of Innovation recognized Pitt faculty and students who have had their discoveries licensed or optioned from the University. The University enjoyed a record breaking year of innovation in Fiscal 2017. New records were set for invention disclosures submitted (329), U.S. patents issued (102) and startups formed around Pitt-developed technology (15). During the year, the Innovation Institute executed 146 licenses and options. Student entrepreneurship also flourished with 14 startups formed by Pitt students based on their own ideas and with support from Innovation Institute educational programming and mentoring.

“We are pleased to take this opportunity to celebrate the growing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt and to recognize our faculty and students who are dedicated to making an impact on the world through the commercialization of their discoveries. This is also an opportunity to show our gratitude for the support network, consisting of both people within the University and external partners, who are critical contributors to our success,” said Evan Facher, Innovation Institute Interim Director.

The evening began with welcoming remarks from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who has been a champion for Pitt faculty and students achieving impact through commercialization since his arrival a Pitt in 2014.

“As we continue to expand the University’s footprint in the innovation and commercialization arena, it is thrilling to report that we are celebrating a year for the record books,” he said. “Last year, Pitt faculty and students acquired more than 100 patents. This is a new record, and doubles the number in 2013 when the Innovation Institute was founded. This statistic ranks us in the top one-third among all universities that have been issued U.S. patents, according to the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.”

Click here to view a flickr gallery of the event.

Several special awards presented at the Celebration of Innovation include:

Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award

The Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award is a lifetime achievement award presented to a Pitt faculty member who has demonstrated over his or her career a commitment to achieving impact through commercialization. The 2017 award is presented to Joseph C. Glorioso, who founded the Pitt Medical School Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in 1989. Dr. Glorioso has been a pioneer in the design and application of herpes simplex virus gene vectors for the treatment of nervous system diseases such as peripheral neuropathies, chronic pain and brain tumors. He is one of the most prolific innovators in University history, with 48 invention disclosures filed, 15 patents issued and 16 licenses executed. He has had four startups formed around his research. The two most recent are Oncorus Inc., which last year raised $63 million in venture capital to pursue development of oncolytic viruses to treat cancer, and Switch Bio, which is developing treatments for pain.

Pitt Student Innovator Award
Pitt Intellectual Property

Douglas A. Nelson Jr. developed his senior design project in bioengineering into his doctoral dissertation at the Swanson School of Engineering Center for Medical Innovation. After participating in several entrepreneurship education programs through the Innovation Institute and receiving mentoring and funding through the Coulter Translational Partners II program, he licensed the BodyExplorer automated medical simulation platform he helped develop from the University. He is now CEO of Lumis Corp., which is developing the BodyExplorer platform commercially.


Pitt Student Innovator Award,
Student Intellectual Property

John Earl Frazier III and Congzhe “Nicole” Xu brought an idea for a new kind of language translation service to the Innovation Institute’s 24-hour Startup Blitz pitch competition in 2015 not knowing that their lives were going to change after that event. They won the competition and moved on to the Pitt Blast Furnace student idea accelerator, and from there launched their company, uTranslated. Upon graduation from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, they were selected through a rigorous competitive process for the AlphaLab accelerator. The passion they developed for entrepreneurship also turned into a love for each other. The two were married last summer.


James “Chip” Hanlon Volunteer Mentor Award

This year a new award has been established in honor of the late James “Chip” Hanlon, one of the original entrepreneurs in residence hired at the founding of the Innovation Institute. Chip gave tirelessly of his time and talent to coach Pitt faculty and students unfamiliar with the product development and commercialization process. The inaugural recipient is Denny Wist, a former steel executive and small business owner who has mentored numerous Pitt innovation teams participating in the Pitt Ventures First Gear commercialization program.