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April 22, 2014

MSU Innovation Center recognizes inventors and inventions

The MSU Innovation Center recognized the MSU Inventor of the Year, Innovator of the Year and Tech Transfer Achievement Award winners. Commended for their perseverance and creativity at the MSU Innovation Celebration, awardees were presented with plaques and a cash prize.

“When it comes to invention, it requires a remarkable amount of labor and imagination to create something new. Sharing that research with the world takes creativity, perseverance and a lot of trial and error,” said Charles Hasemann, MSU Innovation Center Executive Director. “We provide resources and support to reduce barriers and help both students and faculty bring more of our best research ideas to market.”

The award for Innovation of the Year went to Robert Abramovitch, associate professor in microbiology and molecular genetics, for his development of Tuberculosis Anti-Virulence Chemical Compounds. Tuberculosis represents one of the single most lethal infectious agents worldwide, second only in lethality to HIV/AIDS according to the World Health Organization. This technology is a pair of biosensors that enable the identification of compounds that inhibit M. tuberculosis virulence adaptation physiologies required for chronic infections.

One reason that TB has proven difficult to eradicate, particularly in poorer countries, is that current therapies require a six month long course of drugs to cure the disease. This has resulted in continued spread of the disease and the emergence of multidrug resistant TB. The compounds may work to cut TB treatment time considerably from the current average of 6 months.

The 2014 Innovator of the Year is Anil Jain, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, for his work in biometrics. Biometrics, the science of identifying individuals based on physical traits, represents a world market of more than $10 billion. Once limited to fingerprints and composite sketches, the field is now on the cutting edge of digital technology.

Jain’s research advances rapid facial and fingerprint recognition, to foil ever-advancing attempts to avoid detection. Results address challenges in terrorism, crime, and securing sensitive digital records. Jain’s work not only represents continued advancement in the realm of biometrics, but also serves as a critical rebuttal to the methods employed by criminals to thwart established biometric identification practices.

The 2014 MSU Technology Transfer Achievement Award is awarded to James Hancock, professor of agriculture and natural resources for his work in Northern Highbush Blueberry Cultivars. Blueberries are highly praised for their antioxidant properties and micronutrient profile.

Hancock has released four new Northern Highbush blueberry varieties: Draper, Liberty, Aurora and Huron. All have excellent fruit quality, are highly-productive, produce robust and exposed berries that can be machine harvested and have a long shelf life. Hancock’s innovations regarding these new varieties of Northern highbush blueberries represent highly-productive means of generating flavorful and long-lasting blueberries. Draper, Liberty, Aurora and Huron are planted worldwide in areas suitable for Northern Highbush varieties. 

Approximately 20 million plants of these four varieties have been sold. They represent approximately 10 percent of worldwide Northern Highbush blueberry acreage, making them among the most widely planted of all Northern Highbush varieties.

The research of Abramovitch and Hancock is funded in part by MSU AgBioResearch.