October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

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UTexas-San Antonio honors eight researchers at second annual Innovation Awards

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

UTSA President Ricardo Romo, Vice President for Research Mauli Agrawal and the UTSA Office of Commercialization and Innovation recognized eight UTSA faculty members yesterday at the university’s second annual Innovation Awards luncheon. The UTSA Innovation Awards program recognizes UTSA researchers who have contributed to the university’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by securing patents and/or commercial licenses to protect, develop and market their discoveries.

Sos Agaian, UTSA Peter T. Flawn Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was named the university’s 2014 Innovator of the Year. Notably, Agaian is researching image enhancement for use in computer-aided cancer detection. To date, Agaian and his colleagues have developed an algorithm that:

  • assists pathologists in locating and scoring cancerous tissue regions
  • provides more consistent and accurate cancer grading and scoring
  • reduces the time and cost to process biopsies, and
  • removes the need to have slides reviewed and graded by multiple pathologists.

While at UTSA, Agaian’s research has led overall to 26 invention disclosures, 17 patent applications filed, two patents issued and three technologies licensed. Over the last year alone, his research led to six invention disclosures, three provisional patent applications filed, two full patent applications filed and three technology licenses. Additionally, the licensee of his technology provided more than $100,000 in sponsored research funding to his laboratory, and it hired one of Agaian’s doctoral students following graduation.

In addition to honoring Agaian, UTSA recognized seven researchers for receiving patents during the last year. They included:

Banglin Chen, Professor, Department of Chemistry
Honored for developing a rod-packing microporous metal-organic framework with open metal sites for selective separation and sensing of small molecules

David Akopian, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Mehdi Shadaram, Associate Dean and Briscoe Distinguished Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Honored for developing methods to (1) adjust GPS signature codes to minimize the interference from other GPS signals and (2) reduce the time and processing power associated with GPS signal tracking.

Doug E. Frantz, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry
Hector Aguilar, Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer II, Department of Chemistry
Honored for developing compounds and methods to induce the synthesis and secretion of insulin from pancreatic beta cells. The intellectual property related to this discovery has applications to diabetes treatments and was licensed through UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Anson Ong, USAA Foundation Distinguished Professor and Department Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Honored for developing biomedical scaffolds to treat bone diseases and repair bone. The intellectual property related to this discovery has been licensed to Osteogene and is currently completing clinical trials in Italy.

Arturo Ayon, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Honored for developing, with UTSA Chief Commercialization Officer Cory Hallam, a surface-mounted monitoring system that detects and reports the presence of surface loads. This intellectual property was licensed to a San Antonio-based company for commercialization.

Chen, Frantz and Ayon also received recognition for research discoveries that have led to royalty-producing licenses. At the Innovation Awards luncheon, each professor received his royalty check.

Since 2008, UTSA has built a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem to encourage its faculty and students to develop and commercialize innovative products and discoveries. That environment includes:

  • academic programs of study to spur entrepreneurship and technology management, technology development and technology transfer;
  • research administration support through the UTSA Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of Commercialization and Innovation that includes a clear invention disclosure and patenting process as well as a structure to help researchers explore licensing partners;
  • a generous royalty policy, by higher education industry standards, that allows UTSA researchers to split revenue from license fees and royalties with the university 50/50;
  • a New Venture Incubator to help UTSA faculty and students move their ideas from the university to marketplace;
  • the bi-annual Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE) Boot Camp, a daylong crash course allowing entrepreneurs from throughout the region to explore key topics to nurture a successful start-up;
  • CITE’s $100,000 Student Technology Venture Competition, which allows undergrads the opportunity to develop and market an actual technology before they graduate;
  • a regional network of partners and supporters such as the Commercialization Council, an elite group of C-suite executives dedicated to creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in San Antonio, and SBIR, STTR and ETF partnerships, among others.

“UTSA has developed a strong ecosystem that promotes technology innovation and commercialization, and that network is helping the university advance to Tier One status,” said Hallam. “Our researchers are addressing immediate challenges in health, cybersecurity and other areas. By working with industry partners to develop and commercialize discoveries made in UTSA laboratories, we have the potential to make a significant and positive impact on society. Our faculty realizes that to make these efforts succeed, they play an integral part in connecting with industry and enabling strong collaborations.”


UTSA honors eight researchers at second annual Innovation Awards.

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