Companies and innovators with scientific roots at UGA were recognized by Georgia Bio, the state’s life sciences industry association, at its annual awards dinner in January.
“The Georgia Bio annual awards recognize industry leaders, key innovations and strategic financing deals that highlight the rapidly growing life science industry in Georgia,” said Derek Eberhart, director of Innovation Gateway, which oversees UGA’s licensing and startup program. “The bioscience industry is vital to Athens and Georgia, it generates jobs for university graduates and catalyzes industry-university research partnerships, which lead to new products and companies that benefit not only the citizens of Georgia, but of the nation and the world.”
The life sciences industry and university research, together with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have a $20 billion annual economic impact in Georgia and employ more than 94,000 people, according to Georgia Bio.
Meredian Holdings Group and UGA were honored with the 2016 Phoenix Award, sponsored by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Georgia Bio to recognize industry-academic partnerships that make outstanding contributions to the growth of the state’s bioscience industry. Georgia-based MHG, which has a long-standing collaboration with UGA’s College of Engineering, develops sustainable and renewable bioplastics to improve peoples’ lives at work and home. MHG recently expanded its research and development capabilities in Athens through a partnership with UGA, which allowed the company to open a specialty lab in UGA’s Innovation Gateway incubator. The enhanced partnership will facilitate broader collaboration across campus through increased funding for graduate assistantships and research that will lead to new innovations and products.
Three other awardees had ties to UGA research. Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Synageva BioPharma Corp. were among the Georgia companies receiving “Deal of the Year” recognition for 2015. Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. completed the acquisition of UGA startup company Synageva BioPharma in June 2015. Synageva, which graduated from UGA’s Innovation Gateway startup incubator in 2013, was founded as Avigenics by UGA Emeritus Professor of Genetics Robert Ivarie. Alexion has received approval in the U.S. and EU to market Kanuma, a rare-disease therapy produced using technology originally discovered at UGA.
Abeome Corp., a resident company in the Innovation Gateway startup incubator, was honored with the Innovation Award, which recognizes unique technological breakthroughs. The company was founded on technology developed by Distinguished Research Professor Richard Meagher, genetics department, and licensed from the UGA Research Foundation.
Kausar Samli, associate founder and chief executive officer of Glycosensors & Diagnostics, was named one of two 2016 Emerging Leaders of the Year. Samli was recognized for his leadership in managing Glycosensors & Diagnostics, an Innovation Gateway resident company, to develop enabling technologies for applications in glycoscience. Samli, who received his doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from UGA, volunteers with the UGA-based Thinc. initiatives.