Rezai, Sertel and Maung named 2014 Innovators of the Year

As Ohio State continues to expand its role in the commercialization of research, it is important to create an environment that facilitates and rewards research creativity and entrepreneurship. To support and stimulate entrepreneurial activity among Ohio State researchers, three university-wide awards were presented on October 31, 2014, to Ohio State’s most successful faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs.

Innovator of the Year: Ali Rezai

innovator-of-the-year_trancsendThe 2014 Innovator of the Year is Ali Rezai, MD, Stanley D. and Joan H. Ross Chair in Neuromodulation, director and CEO of the Ohio State Neurological Institute, and director of the Ohio State Center for Neuromodulation. Dr. Rezai is a world-renowned neurosurgeon who is in constant pursuit of new ways to end pain and suffering for patients living with disabilities. He has spent his career developing technologies that regulate specific targets in the central nervous system to treat and alleviate the symptoms of a host of neurological disorders.

Dr. Rezai’s research focuses on neural circuitry, neurological sensors and monitors, and development of surgical tools and new neuromodulation approaches. Working with investigators from the Colleges of Medicine, Engineering and Arts and Sciences, Dr. Rezai initiated the first U.S. trials for deep brain stimulation to treat traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism and obesity. In collaboration with engineers and scientists from Ohio State and Battelle, Dr. Rezai, along with a team led by Battelle research leader Chad Bouton, implanted a microchip (Neurobridge) into a patient’s brain that was linked to an external prosthetic sleeve. The procedure allowed the quadriplegic man to move his hand for the first time in four years using his thoughts.

Dr. Rezai holds 35 issued U.S. patents and has more than 50 pending for medical devices and technologies. Three spin-off companies are based on his technology and scientific work – IntElect Medical, Autonomic Technologies and Cardionomics. He was named Cleveland Clinic Innovator of the Year in 2007 and Columbus Business First Innovator of the Year in 2011. He has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and 40 book chapters, and serves on the editorial board of five scientific journals.

Dr. Rezai has been the principal investigator and co-investigator on eight National Institutes of Health grants and is the force behind the partnership between the Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University to fast-track the commercialization of health care technology.

Early Career Innovator of the Year: Kubilay Sertel

Early-Career_Innovator_Sertel_transcendThe 2014 Early Career Innovator of the Year is Kubilay Sertel, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. His research focuses on Terahertz-frequency sensing, imaging and communications. He developed and commercialized the first real-time, high sensitivity terahertz camera used for medical, communication and security applications.

Dr. Sertel’s video camera “sees” in THz wavelengths. Unlike commercial optical cameras that capture light photons using semiconductor-based sensors, the much longer THz wavelengths use microscopic-scale antennas to capture THz power for detection.

Terahertz offers the capability to not only image through materials, but also to determine their composition. Unlike X-rays, THz waves are safe because of their low-energy, non-ionizing nature. THz waves contain a wealth of information that allow for immediate applications such as security screening through clothing, identification of explosive compounds and life-changing applications such as breast cancer detection.

Dr. Sertel’s camera has been commercialized by Traycer Systems Inc. Traycer has attracted over $7.5 million in venture-backed private equity and $3.5 million in supporting infrastructure.

Dr. Sertel has one issued U.S. patent and two U.S. patents pending, two books and over 250 peer-reviewed journal articles, proceedings and book chapters. He is principal investigator on a $6 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the Office of Naval Research.

Dr. Sertel’s company, TeraProbes Inc., an Ohio State spin-off founded in 2014, recently received $100,000 in funding from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation Start-up Fund to enable commercialization of an efficient method of testing next generation electronic chips.

Student Innovator of the Year: David Maung

Student_innovator_Maung_transcendThe 2014 Student Innovator of the Year is David Maung, a doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. He was the chief architect and software developer for an at-home gaming program for stroke patients who experience motor weakness from hemiparesis – an inability to move one side of the body. Hemiparesis, which can be debilitating, affects 325,000 individuals each year. Yet, less than one percent of those affected receive constraint-induced movement therapy (CI therapy), the most common form of therapy to improve motor function.

Recognizing the need for a low-cost, accessible therapy to improve arm function, David led the software development for “Recovery Rapids,” an innovative 3D computer-gaming version of CI that provides in home, high repetition motor exercise that targets the affected hand, arm and shoulder and encourages use of the weaker arm to perform routine daily activities.

The software was developed in collaboration with a team of clinicians, computer scientists, an electrical engineer and a biochemist from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, the Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Next steps will be the formation of a corporation called “Games That Move You” to disseminate this therapy.

The Innovator of the Year and Early Career Innovator of the Year awards recognize Ohio State researchers who are working actively to promote commercialization of university intellectual property, through invention disclosures filed, patents applied for and/or received, technologies licensed or spin-off companies formed. These activities support economic development in the Central Ohio region, and serve to attract companies that create a base of operations within the state. The creation of separate categories for more established researchers and for early career researchers allows cultivation of an entrepreneurial spirit among all of our investigators.

The Student Innovator of the Year award recognizes innovation and entrepreneurship among our students that has contributed to the development or commercialization of a new technology. This year’s Student Innovator of the Year award is sponsored by Sigma Xi, the scientific research society honoring excellence in scientific investigation.