Skip to main content

NC State Holds Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

University Chancellor standing with award winner

NC State has a long history of driving economic growth through the commercialization of its research discoveries, with over 500 products to market and 100 startup companies launched. The Office of Technology Transfer continued this tradition in 2015 by executing 139 commercialization agreements and breaking records for startups created (12) and revenue generated ($7.6M). These numbers are a big reason why NC State ranked so highly in a recent report by the Association of University Technology Managers.


To recognize NC State’s innovative and entrepreneurial individuals who made this possible, the OTT held its 26th Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship this November. Chancellor Randy Woodson hosted over 100 NC State faculty and staff to honor the recipients of the Innovator of the Year and Dr. John S. Risley Entrepreneur of the Year awards. These awards are presented annually to a faculty, staff, or student inventor or entrepreneur that has demonstrated excellence in innovation or entrepreneurship.

Innovator of the Year

Dr. Sylvia Blankenship

Dr. Sylvia Blankenship, Associate Dean for Administration, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Dr. Sylvia Blankenship is an inventor of one of the most successful technologies ever developed at NC State. Along with her co-inventor, Dr. Edward Sisler, Dr. Blankenship discovered 1-methylcyclopropene, a material that blocks the activity of the naturally occurring plant hormone ethylene.

The technology extends the storage life of fruit and floral products and is used in over 26 countries around the world. This has led to revolutionary changes in the way apples and other products are handled in the postharvest environment. Dr. Blankenship is a Professor in the Horticultural Science Department. She has worked on postharvest problems in a number of crops including apples, peaches, pears, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, bananas, and flowers.

She is a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science and received their Outstanding Researcher Award. Dr. Blankenship is also an International Society for Horticultural Science Fellow. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from Texas A&M University in 1977 and 1979, respectively. She received her Ph.D. degree from Oregon State University in 1983, specializing in postharvest physiology. She joined the faculty at NC State in 1983.

Chancellor Randy Woodson presents Dr. Sylvia Blankenship with the Innovator of the Year award.

Innovator of the Year

Dr. Todd Klaenhammer

Dr. Todd Klaenhammer, William Neal Reynolds professor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences

Dr. Todd R. Klaenhammer is a true visionary in the area of food microbiology and biotechnology. Dr. Klaenhammer and his research team have a distinguished IP portfolio that has resulted in 36 issued patents and 22 licenses and executed options.

In 2009, the UNC Board of Governors awarded him the prestigious O. Max Gardner award for the most outstanding research in the system. His group has published over 280 articles on lactic acid bacteria, their bacteriophages, and probiotic cultures and their genomic traits.

Dr. Klaenhammer was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2001. He is a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the American Dairy Science Association. He obtained degrees in Microbiology (B.S), and Food Science (M.S. & Ph.D.) from the University of Minnesota. He joined the faculty at NC State in 1978.

Chancellor Randy Woodson presents Dr. Todd Klaenhammer with the Innovator of the Year award.

Dr. John S. Risley Entrepreneur of the Year

Lewis Sheats

Lewis Sheats, Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship, Poole College of Management, Director, NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic

Lewis Sheats has an extensive background in new venture planning, concept consulting, logistics, opportunity identification and analysis, manufacturing organization, marketing, and strategic planning. He is a serial entrepreneur focused on opportunity identification, execution, and education. Sheats has leveraged his experience to develop and lead an undergraduate entrepreneurship curriculum in the Poole College of Management based on experiential learning and individual student development.

Sheats is the driving force and visionary behind the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic located at HQ Raleigh. Launched in January of 2015, the E-Clinic enables NC State students to connect with startup companies to build the next generation of businesses in Raleigh. E-Clinic students have logged over 2,400 hours of work and have completed valuable projects for over 60 local growth-oriented entrepreneurial ventures.

Sheats is an award-winning educator who was recently inducted into the international honor society, Beta Gamma Sigma. Sheats has a B.S. in Finance from NC State’s Poole College of Management and an M.B.A. from the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business at Campbell University.

“The Think and Do mentality at NC State fosters an entrepreneurial mindset and creates an environment of support and opportunity for our students. The NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic has provided a vehicle to engage students in experiential learning and embeds them in the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem. This in turn provides them an avenue to identify and execute their own new ventures.
I am extremely proud of being a small part of the environment that has been developed to promote the success of our students,” says Sheats.

Record-breaking Startups, Chancellor’s Innovation Fund, and Patent Recipients

In addition to the award winners, Chancellor Woodson recognized NC State’s startup companies, the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund awardees, and faculty innovators who had been issued a patent in 2015.

Venture Development
OTT’s Venture Development launched a record-breaking 12 startups based on NC State technologies.
Intelligent Campus Solutions, Inc.
TextileScents, Inc.
Nine Oak Media, LLC
Lumeova, Inc.
Precision Diagnostics, Inc.
International Technology Systems Transfer (ITST), LLC
Permafuels, Inc. 
MAA Laboratories , Inc.
Sentinel Biomedical, Inc.
People-First Tourism Inc.
Thermo-flex Technologies, Inc.
Highly Tuned, LLC

Chancellor’s Innovation Fund
The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund is in its 6th year of supporting technology development projects. 28 projects have earned support from the CIF since the fund began. The university’s $1.9 million commitment to those projects has yielded a major return on investment: $5.4 million in follow-on funding, $926,000 in licensing revenue, 10 commercialization agreements, and 8 startup companies. This year’s winners are:
Dr. Tushar Ghosh and Dr. Alper Bozkurt – Textile Integrated Sensors for Biomedical Monitoring
Dr. John Sheppard and Dr. Robert Dunn – Isolation of Novel Yeast Species From Insects and their Use in the Development of New Fermented Malt Beverage Products
Dr. Ke Cheng – Transformative Lung Stem Cell Therapies
Dr. Brian Floyd – Code-Modulated Interferometric Imaging with Phased Arrays
Dr. Jon-Paul Maria and Dr. Edward Sachet – Plasmonic Hot Carrier Injection in Extreme-mobility Transparent Conducting Oxides

Patent Recipients
Dr. John Cavanagh – Biochemistry, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor (8,927,029)
Dr. Ramon Collazo – Materials Science Engineering (8,822,045)
Dr. Jack Davis – Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences (9,060,532)
Dr. Michael Dickey – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (8,950,266)
Dr. Andrew DiMeo – Biomedical Engineering (8,808,241)
Evelyn Durmaz – Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Science (9,040,302)
Dr. Michael Escuti – Electrical and Computer Engineering (8,982,313)
Dr. Stefan Franzen – Chemistry (9,061,076)
Dr. Paul Franzon  – Electrical and Computer Engineering (8,903,010 and 9,008,215)
Richard Guenther – Plant Pathology (9,061,076)
Dr. Gerard Hayes – Electrical and Computer Engineering (8,950,266)
Dr. Alex Huang – Electrical and Computer Engineering, Progress Energy Distinguished Professor (8,861,238)
Dr. Samuel Hudson – Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (8,932,521)
Dr. Jihwan Kim – Electrical and Computer Engineering (8,982,313)
Dr. Todd Klaenhammer – Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Science (9,040,302)
Dr. Gianluca Lazzi – Electrical and Computer Engineering (8,950,266)
Dr. Jonathan Lindsey – Chemistry, Glaxo Distinguished University Professor (8,927,029 and 8,980,565)
Dr. Steven Lommel – Associate Dean for Research CALS (9,061,076)
Dr. Christian Melander – Chemistry (8,840,9128,884,0228,927,0299,005,643)
Dr. Joel Pawlak – Forest Biomaterials (8,975,387)
Kenneth Pecota – Horticultural Science (PP25538)
Dr. David Ritchie – Plant Pathology (8,927,029)
Dr. Timothy Sanders – Food, Bioprocessing, Nutrition Science (9,060,532)
Dr. Jason Shih – Poultry Science (8,889,396)
Dr. Zlatko Sitar – Materials Science Engineering (8,822,045)
Dr. Richard Venditti – Forest Biomaterials (8,975,387)
Dr. G. Craig Yencho – Horticultural Science (PP25538)

The Office of Technology Transfer congratulates all who have contributed to NC State’s success in innovation and entrepreneurship in 2015.

Photos by Viki Redding