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Emory innovations and their inventors recognized at annual ceremony

Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer held its 18th Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation on March 21, where it honored the outstanding scientists, research and innovations at Emory. The event kicked off with an hour-long awards presentation spotlighting superlative projects in seven categories. The awardees represented several schools across the university, including the Schools of Medicine and Nursing, the departments of pediatrics and biomedical engineering, and Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

Members of the Atlanta biotechnology industry joined Emory’s academic research community to celebrate the university’s groundbreaking work.

Learn more about the awarded projects below — and get to know the researchers behind them in these Q&A interviews.

Innovation of the Year

A bio-inspired skin interface method for continuous access to blood for measurement and therapy

David Myers, PhD; Nicholas Au Yong, PhD; Priscilla Delgado

Blood tests are typically performed by drawing a patient’s blood and sending the sample to a testing lab, with the results reported to the physician — a process that can take 2-3 hours. This delay may sometimes mean life or death, depending on how the results affect treatment outcomes. To reduce the duration and risk of this process, Emory innovators have developed a technology called “A Bio-Inspired Skin Interface Method for Continuous Access to Blood for Measurement and Therapy.” It’s a wearable, continuous blood collection device that can monitor blood-based biomarkers with reduced risk of blood clots.

Deal of the Year

License with Allonix Therapeutics: Liver receptor homolog-1 (LRH-1) modulators as potential therapeutics for metabolic, cancer and inflammatory diseases

Eric Ortlund, PhD

Discovery of liver receptor homolog-1 (LRH-1) modulators has been difficult, due in part to the tendency for synthetic compounds to bind unpredictably within the lipophilic binding pocket. Ortlund and his research team used a structure-guided approach to exploit a newly discovered polar interaction to lock agonists in a consistent orientation. This enabled the discovery of the first low nanomolar LRH-1 agonist, which has proved to be 100 times more potent than the best previous modulator. In 2023, Emory University executed an exclusive high net worth license with Allonix Therapeutics for this technology. 

Start-up of the Year


Ýmir Vigfússon, PhD

Modern cybersecurity is unable to detect if an end-user is physically sitting at an authorized device or if it has been compromised by a hacker seeking to gain further access to a remote server. To help address this issue, Vigfússon developed “KeyStrike,” a small USB device that connects to a computer. When an end-user enters a key on their keyboard, KeyStrike will forward the keystroke with additional keystrokes. If the server receives a keystroke from the user without the corresponding additional characters, it can be immediately known that the computer may be compromised. Last year, KeyStrike was accepted into and participated in the Berkeley Skydeck program, licensed their IP from OTT, raised $1.3 million, obtained customers and grew the company to 14 employees. 

Significant Event of the Year

ARPA-H Funding

Philip Santangelo, PhD

In 2023, Emory University was selected as the inaugural recipient of funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a new federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This transformative three-year, $24.8 million cooperative agreement aims to drive groundbreaking health research and catalyze transformative breakthroughs in the field. The focus of ARPA-H was to identify innovative approaches that could prevent, treat, and potentially cure diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases. Santangelo’s groundbreaking work centers around a novel class of mRNA-based drugs designed to precisely “turn on or turn off” genes in individual immune cells. His work, supported by ARPA-H, holds the promise of transforming immune modulation and advancing our ability to combat challenging diseases.

Corporate Partnership Award


Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD; Vivien Sheehan, MD, PhD; Christina Caruso, MD; Evelyn Kendall Williams, PhD; Erica Evans; Kirby Fibben

What started as a collaborative project to create COVID-19 diagnostics evolved into something entirely different. Intrigued by Lam’s and Sheehan’s work on sickle cell disease (SCD), Honeywell entered a multi-pronged, multi-year partnership to develop multiple diagnostics for SCD. As of now, the team —  including not only Lam, Sheehan and their labs, but also Evelyn Williams, PhD; Christina Caruso, MD; Erica Evans; and Kirby Fibben — is co-developing with Honeywell and jointly filing patents. As the relationship continues, more patents will be filed for their technologies, as Lam and Honeywell see the potential to develop diagnostics for infectious and cardiovascular diseases in the years to come.

EmpowHER Award

Louise Hecker, PhD

Hecker is a prominent researcher in the field of regenerative biology and specializes in pulmonology. Her research primarily focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying pulmonary fibrosis and developing novel therapeutic approaches for treating this debilitating disease.Hecker’s goal is to stop Nox4 by developing improved therapies that would help those affected by fibrotic disorders lead longer, healthier lives. In addition to earning many awards and accolades, including grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Hecker has also founded two start-up companies related to her research.

Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity Award (IDEAward)

Low English proficiency nurse communication tool

Christina Calamaro, PhD; Michael Fundora, MD; Morgan Greenleaf; Santiago Arconada Alvarez; Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD

For patients with limited language proficiency (LLP), navigating a health care system that is predominantly English-speaking can be overwhelming. LLP patients report lower satisfaction overall with health encounters, and they are less likely to understand medical diagnoses and treatment plans. The inventors’ technology, “Low English Proficiency Nurse Communication Tool,” is an application that revolutionizes how nurses communicate with patients who have limited English language proficiency and their caregivers. This novel mobile app enables the clinical team to communicate using common phrases in the patient’s language, images and real-time translation. While it currently functions with a pediatrics setting in mind, the team plans to expand use to adult patients soon.

About Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer

Emory University’s Office of Technology Transfer has almost 40 years of success in guiding scientific discoveries from the laboratory into the marketplace. Emory currently manages more than 1,800 technologies, which has led to the formation of 130 companies and more than 65 new products in the marketplace, some of which — like the discovery of several HIV drugs — have offered major health and societal benefit. Since FY 2000, the university has filed more than 3,900 patent applications and has been issued over 600 U.S. patents. In that time, Emory has executed more than 800 license agreements, resulting nearly $1 billion in licensing revenue, thereby creating additional funding for new and ongoing research.

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