Archive for the ‘Awards & Recognition’ Category

U.Va. Innovation Announces 2013 Innovator of the Year, Marking First for Curry School

By Morgan Estabrook

Marcia Invernizzi Photo by Dan Addison

For the first time, a representative from the Curry School of Education has taken the University of Virginia’s top innovation honor.

U.Va. Innovation named Marcia A. Invernizzi the 2013 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year in recognition of her work to improve children’s literacy. Invernizzi’s innovative Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening, or PALS, assessments and teaching tools are used in six countries and all 50 states to identify and provide customized learning experiences for young children at risk of becoming poor readers.

Invernizzi accepted the award Wednesday evening at a ceremony held at Charlottesville’s Jefferson Theater. Referring to the honor as “much-deserved,” University President Teresa A. Sullivan congratulated Invernizzi in a letter read aloud at the ceremony.

“Your PALS materials have set the standard for literacy assessment [… and] given teachers the tools to effectively teach reading, even where budgets are limited,” Sullivan wrote. “As you receive this award, the members of the University community and I are exceptionally proud of you.”

The honor recognizes an individual or team at U.Va. each year who is making a “major impact” through innovation.

Developed in 1997 with funding from the Virginia Department of Education, PALS “provides a comprehensive assessment of young children’s knowledge of the important literacy fundamentals that are predictive of future reading success,” according to the PALS website.

“Through her work with PALS, Marcia is actually changing the world,” said W. Mark Crowell, executive director of U.Va. Innovation, associate vice president for research at U.Va. and a member of the selection committee.

Today, nearly 270,000 kindergarten through third-grade students each year are screened using PALS assessments through Virginia’s voluntary Early Intervention Reading Initiative, with additional pre-kindergarten students served through the Virginia Preschool Initiative.

“There’s a window of opportunity to get kids reading,” said Invernizzi, the Edmund H. Henderson Professor of Education. “I really felt passionate about trying to do something in my own community.”

Together with Allison Drake and Jay Ferguson, Invernizzi founded a Charlottesville-based company, PALS Marketplace, in 2010 to distribute PALS assessments and tools beyond the commonwealth. Fellow U.Va. spinoff company CaseNEX LLC acquired PALS Marketplace in April 2012 and continues to make the screening tools available to more than 100,000 students in other states and internationally.

Invernizzi noted she followed a long line of past honorees who dedicated their research to public health.

“Literacy is also a public health issue,” she said, “and like other public health issues, early intervention is key.

“Only seven out of 10 ninth-graders today are going to graduate from high school. We know that we can actually change the trajectory for our most at-risk children through early intervention, and that’s where PALS comes in.”

Invernizzi hopes to expand the PALS family of assessments and teaching tools – which currently include PALS-PreK, PALS-K and PALS 1-3 – to provide for seamless literacy screening through eighth grade. Through a grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences, she is also working to develop PALS-español for Spanish-speaking students.

“The work Marcia has done in regard to early literacy assessments and interventions has paved the way for schools to spawn deeper conversations about children’s growth and development in reading,” said Darnella S. Cunningham, principal of Spotsylvania County’s Lee Hill Elementary School and a member of the board of directors of the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals.

“As we analyze PALS data, we’re better able to pinpoint students’ strengths and determine needs to improve specific literacy skills. In this age of accountability, we’re all looking for reasonable and manageable ways to consistently monitor student progress. PALS provides us with tools to do so.”

In addition to her work with PALS, Invernizzi is the executive director of U.Va.’s McGuffey Reading Center, the oldest operating University reading center in the country, and is a founder of Book Buddies, a nationally recognized one-on-one reading intervention.

About the Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award

Named for U.Va. Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard F. Edlich and Christopher J. (“Goose”) Henderson, a 25-year veteran of privately owned financial services businesses, the award recognizes an individual or team each year whose research discovery is making a major impact. Previously the Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year award, the award title and criteria were modified in 2012 to be more inclusive of University innovators pursuing a variety of different paths to achieve impact for their discoveries.

16 Charlottesville Entrepreneurs Among CIT’s “GAP 50″

Breaking news: We’ve just received word from the Center for Innovative Technology‘s GAP 50 awards luncheon that 16 Charlottesville entrepreneurs made the list! These Charlottesville-based innovators and business leaders were selected by their peers as being among the top 50 “most likely to build Virginia’s next generation life science, technology, and energy companies”:

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists throughout Charlottesville and the commonwealth!

For more about CIT’s GAP 50 awards, visit For a list of all Charlottesville-area nominees, visit

ADial, Xdynia Selected to Present at Mid-Atlantic Bio

ADialTwo U.Va. spin-off companies have been selected to present at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Biotech Conference, to be held Sept. 27-28 in Bethesda, Md.

Charlottesville-based ADial Pharmaceuticals LLC and Xdynia will join 20 other companies from Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia in presenting to an estimated 850 conference attendees, including investors. Both companies will present in the conference’s “Emerging Growth” category, which features companies seeking investment for “promising technologies or products” in development.

ADial will showcase its emerging treatment for alcoholism.

“Alcoholism is a debilitating diseases that afflicts over 200 million people worldwide,” said William Stilley, CEO of ADial. “Our drug, AD04, effectively treats alcoholism by reducing the harm from drinking among those with specific genetics.

“ADial is excited to have the opportunity to shed more light on the disease and treatment of alcoholism at Mid-Atlantic Bio.”

Founded earlier this year, Xdynia will present drugs that could be used to prevent and treat neuropathic pain, such as the chronic pain caused by diabetes, shingles, fibromyalgia, cancer, HIV, trauma and phantom limb.

Read the full story here.

U.Va. Architecture’s “Breathe House” Erected in Haiti

Breathe House

Photo courtesy of Sara Harper

Breathe House

Photo courtesy of Sara Harper

We checked in with U.Va.’s Initiative reCOVER this week, following the build of its innovative “Breathe House” in the Haitian community of Bois l’Etat, near St. Marc.So named for its natural ventilation strategy, the Breathe House was designed by students in the U.Va. School of Architecture. Led by Anselmo Canfora, the team took first place in an international competition that sought disaster-recovery solutions for Haiti’s displaced population following a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January 2010. (Read more about the Breathe House here.)

Coming in first gave the team the opportunity to fulfill their vision, which was erected this week.

“Working in Haiti has many challenges,” said Initiative reCOVER research fellow Sara Harper, “but with the team that traveled to Saint-Marc, Haiti, we were able to overcome those difficulties and produce a safe and healthy building that will serve the FEBS (Fondation Esther Boucicault Stanislas) community for many years to come.”

The Breathe House was made possible by the generous support of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission — which awarded U.Va. a grant for the Partnership for Affordable, Energy Efficient Housing Systems — and that of several other local partners, said Phil Parrish, U.Va. associate vice president for research.

“Based upon that grant, the team manufactured the Breathe House structural panels in Southside, Va., which were subsequently shipped to Haiti and assembled,” Parrish said. “Manufacture of this first prototype of the Breathe House was a joint effort between U.Va.; SIPS of America Inc. (Blairs, Va.); and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, the Riverstone Energy CenterAWFI and Kyoger (all located in South Boston, Va.).”

The build team, pictured at left, included Harper; Parrish; Kenny Stevenson from AWFI; Trace Steffen from Kyoger; and Mary Butcher, John Diven, Mike Gallahue and Ethan Tate from the Building Goodness Foundation.

U.Va. Student Innovator Named to Canada’s “Top 20 Under 20″

Joseph Linzon

Undergraduate student inventor–entrepreneur Joseph Linzon pitches "PowerSole" at the University of Virginia's 2011 Entrepreneurship Cup. Photo by Cole Geddy.

Rising second-year Joseph Linzon, of Toronto — whom you may recognize as the “face of U.Va. Innovation,” above — has been named to Canada’s “Top 20 Under 20.” The annual program recognizes Canadian youth whose “leadership and innovation has led to the betterment of [their] school, community, province and/or country.”

Inventor of the PowerSole, a shoe that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy with each step its wearer takes, Linzon is seeking to “empower the powerless” in developing countries. The PowerSole concept came in second overall in last year’s U.Va. Entrepreneurship Cup, for which Linzon was awarded $10,000. [Read the full story.]

Congratulations, Joe!

‘Serial Entrepreneur’ Robin A. Felder Named U.Va. Innovator of the Year

Morgan Estabrook
U.Va. Innovation News Release
April 4, 2012


U.Va. Innovation, a new initiative dedicated to maximizing the impact of University of Virginia research discoveries, has named Robin A. Felder its 2012 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year. The highest honor bestowed on a U.Va. innovator, the award recognizes an individual or team each year whose research is making a “major impact.”

Photo by Dan Addison

“Through his leadership and truly pioneering work in medical automation and basic biomedical research, Robin Felder has significantly advanced laboratory efficiency and patient care,” said W. Mark Crowell, executive director of U.Va. Innovation and associate vice president for research. Felder will be honored April 24 at U.Va. Innovation’s annual awards reception in the Rotunda.

A self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Felder has launched nine companies out of the University over the past two decades, including WellAWARE Systems, Global Cell Solutions and Medical Automation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing costs and improving efficiency in health care systems.

A professor of pathology and associate director of clinical chemistry at U.Va., Felder credits the launch of WellAWARE (then Home Guardian), a provider of technology-based solutions facilitating independent living for seniors, to a visit to a German health club, where he happened to notice the needle on a scale moving to his heartbeat.

“I had this ‘aha’ moment,” Felder said, “that if you can measure your heartbeat through the sole of your foot, imagine what additional signals your body is giving off and what we could use to translate this into the passive continuous monitoring of wellness in the home.”

Inviting collaborators to invent around this concept, Felder led the team in building a variety of sensors that would ultimately detect such activities as sleep, footsteps, falls, dining and bathing patterns, and even one’s mood, allowing aging seniors to live independently with the security afforded by a sophisticated, automated wellness monitoring system.

Kevin Greene, a partner at Valhalla Partners, was instrumental in getting WellAWARE  off the ground. “Building a new company, from invention to innovation, is replete with challenges,” he said. “Professor Robin Felder personifies the optimism, paranoia and courage it takes to foster a University project into a commercially available solution that is affecting  the lives of thousands of senior citizens across the country.

“I take great pride in celebrating the innovation revolution Professor Felder is helping to lead at the University of Virginia. Mr. Jefferson would be proud.”

Systems are now installed in 2,200 residences from Virginia to South Dakota, reporting minute-to-minute data on the wellness of elderly occupants. WellAWARE raised $7.5 million in growth capital in 2009.

Based on technology that was named a “Top 10 Innovation” by The Scientist magazine in 2009, Global Cell Solutions is advancing regenerative medicine, drug discovery, cancer research and other efforts through the automation of 3-D cell culture. Using an automated bench-top system, Global Cell’s novel approach facilitates cell culture that mimics in vivo biology and physiology that could one day obviate the need for animal studies and provide high-quality replacement body cells, Felder said. The company has raised more than $1.5 million in local investments.

The author of more than 120 peer-reviewed publications, Felder has received more than $30 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, with additional funding from industry sources, venture capital and federal Small Business Technology Transfer awards. Felder has been named on 12 issued U.S. patents, with an additional seven U.S. and international patents pending.

In 2009, Felder received the prestigious Engelberger Award for Leadership in Robotics. In 2010, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry joined in honoring him with the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry, marking the first time the organizations have honored the same awardee.

Describing the entrepreneurial landscape of years ago as “a challenging maze,” Felder said he thinks things are looking up for today’s would-be entrepreneurs.

“There wasn’t enough information back in the ‘good old days’ about how to be an entrepreneur and what kind of steps you had to take,” he said. “Now we’re a whole lot smarter, and there are high-quality resources dedicated to facilitating translation.”

Felder’s companies have benefited from such University resources as the Venture Forward mentoring program (formerly the T100 program) and the Darden School of Business Darden Incubator and business plan and concept competitions. Off Grounds, Felder has also received support from the Small Business Development Center and Charlottesville Business Innovation Council.

“Don’t try to do it all by yourself,” he cautions aspiring faculty-entrepreneurs. “Get good advice, and don’t be afraid to fail fast and then rebound with an even better opportunity.”

Named for U.Va. Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard F. Edlich and Christopher J. “Goose” Henderson, a 25-year veteran of privately owned financial services businesses, the Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award recognizes an individual or team each year whose research discovery is making a major impact. Previously known as the Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year award, the award title and criteria were modified this year to be more inclusive of University innovators pursuing a variety of different paths to achieve impact for their discoveries.

Related Links

Robert A. Felder names U.Va. Innovator of the Year (U.Va. Today. 04/04/2012)
U.Va. names its Innovator of the Year
(The Daily Progress. 04/04/2012)
U.Va. names Robin Felder innovator of the Year
(Workit, Cville. 04/04/2012)


Finalists Announced for Charlottesville Business Innovation Council Awards

Finalists for the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC) Awards Gala have been selected in six categories that reflect the gala’s theme: Go for the Gold! The finalists were chosen from a large group of nominees. You can choose the People’s Choice Navigator Award winner by voting online through May 1.  Don’t miss the awards ceremony on May 24 5pm-10pm.

Rocket Award for rapid commercialization of a technology or product.

Spotlight Award for bringing positive attention to the region.

Breakthrough Award for a breakthrough or quantum advance.

Community Award for commitment to improving the quality of life in Central Virginia.

Red Apple Award for inspiring and preparing students to embrace the possibilities of technology.

  • Deanna Isley – Burnley-Moran Elementary School
  • Brian Kayser – Walton Middle School
  • Corrie Kelly – Woodbrook Elementary School
  • Brian Squires – Brownsville Elementary School

People’s Choice Navigator Award* for significant leadership in the local or regional entrepreneurial or high-tech community.

  • Martin Chapman
  • Tracey Danner

For more information about the finalists and about CBIC, click here.


U.Va. Student Startup Wins Pitchfest at SXSW Interactive Conference

University of Virginia students Duylam Nguyen-Ngo and Ashutosh Priyadarshy, founders of WalkBack, won the Student Startup Madness inaugural pitchfest at the South By Southwest Interactive Conference. WalkBack is a personal safety mobile app that targets college students who help friends walk home late at night by synching their smart phones with one another and check their safety and location.

As winners, Nguyen-Ngo and Priyadarshy walked away with a prize package valued at more than $3,000 and one-on-one networking session with the pitchfest judge Brian Cohen, chairman of New York Angels.

Each selected team was given 15 minutes to pitch their ideas and answer questions from a panel of judges that included Cohen, his son Trace, president of, Elisa Miller-Out, president of Singlebrook and Nancy Spears, president of genConnect. The students’ ideas were judged on business merit, investment opportunity, strength of the idea and the team and market size and traction.

“All five teams did a great job describing their product or service and answering questions from the judges, but the top teams really stood out with their understanding of their market and articulating their business model,” said Sean Branagan, SSM founder and director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, in a press release. “The WalkBack app got the attention of the judges because it solved a growing problem on many college campuses.”

For more information, see the conference press release.

Help Us Find the 2012 U.Va. Innovator of the Year

Pictured: Innovations developed and used by past award winners. Photos by Stephanie Gross and Jackson Smith







Is one of your colleagues — or are you, yourself — making a big impact through innovation?

Help us find the 2012 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year! Nominate yourself or a colleague by March 5.

Eligible nominees are current University of Virginia faculty, staff or students whose research discoveries are making a major impact.

All nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. on March 5. To nominate yourself or a colleague, simply submit a letter addressing the above criteria to U.Va. Innovation via:

  • E-mail (, preferred
  • FAX (434-982-1583)
  • U.Va. messenger mail (P.O. Box 400896) or
  • Postal mail (250 W. Main St., Suite 300; Charlottesville, VA 22902)

For more information about the award and to view past recipients, click here.

Poster Competition to Spotlight High-Impact U.Va. Research

Call for PostersThe University of Virginia’s Presidential Research Poster Competition is now soliciting entries for 2012. Designed to “highlight high-impact and innovative growth areas for U.Va. research,” the competition was introduced last year as part of U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan’s inauguration festivities.

University undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are invited to submit posters that address the following research areas:

  1. Physical & Environmental Sciences
  2. Engineering, Biosciences & Health
  3. Humanities, Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences
  4. Law, Business, Policy & Education
  5. Translational & Applied Research
  6. Performing Arts, Fine Arts & Architecture

The top undergraduate, graduate and post-doc team in each area will receive a $500 travel award and personal recognition by President Sullivan at the competition, which will be held in the Dome Room of the Rotunda on May 14.

Poster submissions are due by 5 p.m. on March 12. For details and to download the required poster template, click here.