Impact Makers Honored at TLA Event
Inventors and innovators were honored during the Squared Awards and Expo Showcase.

Tech Launch Arizona
April 19, 2017


Rajesh Khanna, an associate professor in the UA Department of Pharmacology, delivers his pitch for Regulonix and the small molecule inhibitors for chronic pain the company is working to bring to market.
Rajesh Khanna, an associate professor in the UA Department of Pharmacology, delivers his pitch for Regulonix and the small molecule inhibitors for chronic pain the company is working to bring to market. (Photo credit: Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona)

Tech Launch Arizona held its fourth annual awards event honoring those whose work directly affects the quality of life for people in Tucson, across Arizona and throughout the world.

The I-Squared Expo & Awards, held April 19 at the University of Arizona Jim Click Hall of Champions at McKale Center, celebrated those who are having a positive impact through research, collaboration and technology commercialization.

While previous I-Squared events have honored specific individuals, this year's event expanded the concept, including an expo that showcased eight UA startups built commercializing inventions from across the UA. They are:

  • A beating heart graft from Avery Therapeutics, invented at the College of Medicine-Tucson
  • A new high-altitude inflatable antenna from FreeFall Aerospace, invented at the Steward Observatory and College of Optical Sciences
  • A variety solutions for mining and energy production from MetOxs, invented at the College of Engineering
  • A dual-view endoscope from Omnicient, invented at the College of Optical Sciences
  • DNA quadraplex master switch to turn off cancer genes from Reglagene, invented at the College of Pharmacy and its Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Small molecule inhibitors for chronic pain from Regulonix, invented at the College of Medicine-Tucson
  • A tunable VECSEL 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
  • A platform for the analysis of big healthcare data, from BDIAB, invented at the College of Medicine-Tucson

"We chose to highlight these companies among dozens of others to show the how the vast range of UA research is being brought to bear down on real-world problems through commercial pathways," said David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, which is the UA office that creates social and economic impact through bringing the inventions stemming from the Univesity's research from the lab to the world.

Tech Launch Arizona invited four of those startups – Avery Therapeutics, Regulonix, BDIAB and Reglagene – to deliver 10-minute company pitches to a room of about 100 people and then answered rapid-fire audience questions.

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

The teams who pitched will also be traveling with Tech Launch Arizona to Silicon Valley the first week in May to tell their stories at TechCode, a global startup incubator partnering with Tech Launch Arizona to increase the reach and effectiveness of UA inventions and startups. Through TechCode's global network these teams will gain international exposure.

In a ceremony following the expo and pitch sessions, Allen presented five UA faculty, researchers and teams, and one community collaborator, with awards for excellence as inventors and effectiveness as TLA partners:

Inventor of the Year, Physical Sciences: Douglas Loy

Loy holds a dual appointment as professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science, and as a 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. Loy has participated in the TLA NSF I-Corps program, and is highly engaged with Tech Launch Arizona through senior licensing manager Paul Eynott.

Inventor of the Year, Life Sciences: Vijay Gokhale

Gokhale is director of computational chemistry at the UA BIO5 Institute's Drug Discovery and Development initiative. 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 drug discovery.  Vijay primarily works with the Biomedical team directed by Rakhi Gibons, Tech Launch Arizona's associat director for biomedical licensing.

Startup of the Year: MetOxs Electrochemical

MetOxs Solutions is managed by Abraham Jalbout, an entrepreneur who understands both business and science. MetOxs has licensed a few 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 corrosion sensors (invented by Abe Jalbout, Dominic Gervasio, Hassan Elsentriecy and Perry Li of the College of Engineering) and the HexoPanel (developed by Moe Momayez of the College of 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 of the College of Engineering. Jalbout continues to be a highly-engaged UA partner and is looking ahead to more discoveries, inventions and opportunities for collaboration.

Campus Collaborator of the Year: McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship

The McGuire Center of Entrepreneurship at the Eller College of Management has been an indispensable partner in Tech Launch Arizona's execution of the NSF I-Corps program at the UA, and with the entrance of Remy Arteaga as director, that relationship has only become stronger. As McGuire educates students, they sometimes pursue business plans centered on UA technologies. In these cases, TLA Mentors-in-Residence and licensing Managers work closely with the student team and McGuire leadership for a rich, diverse, extended, cross-disciplinary team.

Ecosystem Impact of the Year: Katina Koller

Koller is chief executive officer of Northwire, Inc., and a highly-engaged volunteer Tech Launch Arizona Commercialization Partner. She is an active participant in weekly round-table discussions related to technology advancement, and has served as a mentor for NSF I-Corps teams. Koller is a proactive supporter of Tech Launch Arizon projects, working closely to make connections, and is an overall enthusiastic contributor to the mission of the office. 

"We are delighted to have such a broad network of collaborators across the University, intellectual property and business communities assisting TLA," Allen said. "Such a network is enabling TLA to scale its activities and impact."