This spring, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation was honored to recognize UT innovators from across the state at UTRF’s annual Innovation Awards. For the first time in two years, UTRF staff and valued partners gathered in Knoxville and Memphis to celebrate the innovation coming from the university.

Attendees celebrating the Innovation Awards at the Health Science Center in Memphis.

At the events, hosted at UT Knoxville and the UT Health Science Center, UTRF recognized newly licensed technologies, startups created from UT technology and recently issued patents. In the fiscal year 2021, UTRF reported 51 licenses and agreements in a single year – an all-time UTRF high. Additionally, UTRF had 217 active technology licenses, 113 patents filed and 45 active companies.

“In the last two years, our office has recorded a record number of disclosures, licenses and agreements and patents filed and issued,” said UTRF President Stacey Patterson. “We are proud to recognize the accomplishments of our outstanding innovators, and we are excited about the trajectory of UTRF and the university’s research facilities that continue to develop inspiring innovations each and every day.”

Left to right: UTRF Vice President Dr. Maha Krishnamurthy, 2022 Legend Award Recipient Dr. Peter Tsai, and UTRF President Dr. Stacey Patterson.

In Knoxville, UTRF presented Dr. Peter Tsai, the architect behind the critical technology in N95 respirators and a retired UTK professor, with the 2022 Legend Award for his outstanding contributions in the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Tsai has an over 25-year-long partnership with UTRF that includes 12 U.S. patents and more than 20 commercial license agreements.

Left to right: UTRF Vice President Richard Magid, 2022 Hall of Fame recipient Dr. Michael Whitt, and former UTRF Senior Staff Attorney Dr. Lakita Cavin

“UT researchers have been pivotal in the fight against COVID-19,” said UTRF Vice President Maha Krishnamurthy. “We are so grateful for the kindness, brilliance and tireless work ethic of Peter Tsai. He came out of retirement to help his community and the world during its time of need, making him incredibly deserving of the 2022 Legend Award.”

In Memphis, UTHSC faculty members Drs. Valeria Vasquez and Ramesh Narayanan served as Spotlight Presenters, while Dr. Michael Whitt gave the keynotepresentation. Whitt’s vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) platform has played a pivotal role in Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine research efforts.

“UTHSC researchers have been doing incredible work these past two years. I am glad we had the chance to recognize their research and technology together once again,” said Vice President Richard Magid. “From Vasquez’s work with ion channels to Whitt’s dedication in fighting COVID-19, our office is proud to support and recognize such forward-thinking innovators.”