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2023 Innovation Celebration

Each year, the MSU Innovation Celebration honors Michigan State University researchers who reported an invention, licensed a technology, or were awarded patents during the academic year. The awards recognize outstanding achievements in technology transfer and commercialization, corporate engagement, and sponsored research.

Hosted by the MSU Innovation Center, this year marks the 13th annual event and was a resounding success, with over 350 attendees from across the region coming together at the MSU Kellogg Center to celebrate and promote the research, innovation, and entrepreneurship that is happening across MSU.

The celebration featured a wide range of engaging activities, including an exhibition venue where attendees could learn about some of the newest discoveries from both faculty and students. Attendees also had the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest innovators at MSU, as well as network with faculty and student innovators and entrepreneurs.

The event celebrated four MSU faculty members whose innovations, technologies, and corporate partnerships exemplified the culture of research and innovation at MSU.  Also celebrated this year were two startup companies with ties to MSU and who are poised to grow significantly over the coming years.

Also featured were more than 20 faculty and student exhibitors whose innovations, technologies, and startups showcase some of the groundbreaking solutions being developed at MSU across a diverse range of industries, from healthcare to energy to agriculture.

The 2023 Awardees include:

Click below to learn more about this year’s honorees.

You can also view the Photo Gallery from this year’s event HERE

Innovation Celebration Awardees

Tech Transfer Achievement Award: Anil Jain, Ph.D.

Michigan State University (MSU) Professor Anil Jain has won the 2023 Technology Transfer Achievement Award for his work in biometrics. Jain has spent the past 30 years working on biometric technologies that have been licensed to numerous companies, including IBM, Siemens, and Infineon. Jain’s research has had a global impact, and his technology was the basis for the design of Aadhaar, India’s biometrics-based civil registration system, which has empowered about 1.4 billion residents of India. His latest contribution to the field includes the licensing of his novel automated fingerprint recognition system called DeepPrint to global biometrics company NEC. The system reduces the computation time to search for a fingerprint in a database with millions of fingerprints. His work in fingerprint technology has also led to the development PrintsGAN which is used to train DeepPrint with synthetically generated fingerprints.


Innovator of the Year Award: Qi Hua Fan, Ph.D.

Qi Hua Fan, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan State University has developed a method for filtering and destroying per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in contaminated water. His technique uses a high-volume water filtration technology method that combines electrical-field-enhanced absorption on activated carbon made of biochar. The biochar has a large surface area, which can capture impurities, including PFAS. The electrical field-enhanced absorption is 30 times more efficient than other solutions, and the method is cost-effective, allowing for a high degree of scalability from individual home filtration to large-scale industrial applications. Once the PFAS has been removed from the water, Fan’s research team has developed a novel solution to break down the normally very resilient PFAS chemicals using plasma science and technology. The plasma contains energetic particles that can easily break down PFAS. Fan’s exemplary work in tackling PFAS removal from groundwater and other sources earned him the 2023 MSU Innovator of the Year award.


Innovation of the Year Award: Elad Harel, Ph.D.

Elad Harel, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Michigan State University, has won the 2023 Innovation of the Year award for his work in the field of spectroscopy. Harel’s lab hopes to bridge the gap between electron microscopes, which are limited to studying static, fixed samples, and spectroscopic imaging using only light, which lacks the resolution needed to observe reactions at the molecular or atomic levels. The tools and methods developed by Harel’s lab aim to provide scientists with the capability to observe living, dynamic systems at the molecular or atomic levels. The potential impact on science and resulting discoveries could benefit a wide range of scientific fields.


Corporate Connector Award: Barry Bradford, Ph.D.

Dr. Barry Bradford, Dairy Management and Nutrition professor at Michigan State University, is leading research on nutraceuticals in animal nutrition to improve animal health, dairy production, and reduce the environmental impact of animal agriculture. Nutraceuticals are nutritionally rich feed components containing numerous nutrients and micronutrients that act as building blocks for animals and serve as signals that can interact with cells and change their function. When included in a cow’s diet, these bioactive nutraceuticals can improve digestion and nutrient absorption, boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of diseases, leading to more sustainable animal production. Dr. Bradford’s team has developed a cell-based nutraceuticals screening platform that enables them to quickly assess high-potential nutraceuticals in the lab, which have potentially positive impacts on the reduction of inflammation and boosting of immune cells. The corporate partnerships Dr. Bradford has established have allowed his team to carry out large-scale studies of high-potential nutraceuticals identified through lab testing in production settings, bringing discoveries made in the lab from concept to real-world application.


Startup of the Year Award: Indapta Therapeutics

Indapta Therapeutics is a biotechnology company focused on developing innovative treatments for cancer using a type of immune cell called a Natural Killer (NK) cell. Indapta has developed a process to collect g-NK cells from healthy donors that can then be expanded to large numbers using a proprietary manufacturing process. The g-NK cells can be frozen and stored in advance and delivered to physicians as needed, where they can be thawed and administered. In addition, because g-NK cells are an “off-the-shelf” treatment, patients do not have to wait for the cells to be manufactured for treatments to start. Indapta’s g-NK treatments are designed to work in combination with approved therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, and their initial clinical trials will focus on lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Indapta was able to attract several highly regarded investors, including the MSU Research Foundation, to invest in a Series A financing round of $60 million and is now in the process of filing their IND with the FDA, with a plan to start first-in-human Phase 1 clinical trial later in 2023.


Student Startup of the Year Award: UniServices

UniServices is an app that connects Michigan State University (MSU) students with people in the local community who require help with everyday tasks and chores. UniServices was founded by Adam Green, an MSU law student who was looking for ways to earn money while in college. UniServices offers students the opportunity to complete a wide range of tasks, such as dog walking, moving furniture, and cleaning out garages. The company has already completed around 2,500 jobs and had students hired over 5,000 times. UniServices has received support from the MSU Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which provides funding, technical support, legal assistance, designers, and access to investor connections. The company has closed its first round of funding, and its founders plan to build the future of UniServices while being full-time on the enterprise after graduation.


2023 Exhibitors

Dr. Erik Martinez- Hackert
ADA011 – A Biologic Ligand Trap

ADA011 is a state-of-the-art biologic therapeutic with the potential to revolutionize the treatment of LGMD2B, a severe form of muscular dystrophy (MD) that currently has no approved therapies or cures. ADA011 is an innovative and highly effective engineered protein that binds two human growth factors with remarkable picomolar affinity, effectively blocking their downstream action. By specifically targeting muscle degeneration, ADA011 offers a promising new approach to slowing or halting the progression of muscle weakness and dysfunction in patients with LGMD2B as well as other forms of MD.


Dr. Barry Bradford
Bioactive Feeds Components for Sustainable Animal Production

In total, there are over 200,000 plant secondary metabolites in nature, and many of these compounds can have both toxic and beneficial effects, depending on the dose.

We have developed a cell-based screening platform to enable high-throughput assessment of candidate feed materials that have potent impacts on inflammatory signaling in immune cells at low concentrations. We are also conducting disease challenge studies to assess how bioactive feed impacts immune responses in livestock.

Finally, we carry out large, randomized studies in collaboration with our corporate partners to assess efficacy in production settings and help move these technologies from concept to application.


Dr. Kurt Zinn
Cancer-Targeted Alpha-Particle Therapeutic Vehicles

When properly targeted, a-particle therapy can be more specific to attacking cancer compared to other methods, such as external radiation beams or chemotherapy, and has emerged as a tool for
treating certain cancers for which limited therapeutic options are available.

However, for use in clinical settings, a precise manufacturing method needs to be quick, easy to implement in the clinic, and produce a stable radiopharmaceutical that can be delivered to the patient.

MSU has key enabling technology in the form of a kit that will enable the clinic to prepare the radiopharmaceutical using the short-lived radioisotope that emits alpha particles.


Brad Wilson

Cogrounded helps educational groundbreakers grow their impact by achieving their market potential. We’re reinventing how curriculum gets to the K-12 market, starting with MSU.

Consultative managed services for researchers and authors to publish and market their program to K-12.

Cogrounded is a business partner to grow educational content, tech, and services to a commercial scale.

  • Development and Publishing
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Sales and Distribution
  • Training and School Support


Dr. Eric Hegg
CU-AHP/O Catalytic Technology for Woody Biomass Processing

We have created a soluble catalyst and oxygen-based process for delignification of woody biomass that is based on over ten years of research and development and is backed by several patent applications. This odor-free technology can effectively separate the lignin and sugar-rich fractions, reaching close to 100% recovery of fiber and sugars. The lignin produced is not crosslinked and has been shown to be an excellent precursor to polyurethane and replacement for petroleum-based polyols, while the fiber-rich fraction can be used for making paper or any one of a variety of biofuels (e.g., bioethanol). Thus, the process can add value to both biofuel and pulp production.


Dr. Nathan Tykocki
Cubi3c Platform

The cost of scientific instrumentation is nearly astronomical—due in part to its high-precision nature but low-volume sales potential. Plus, most of the stuff is just…huge. The Cubi3c Platform leverages
the versatility of off-the-shelf microcontrollers to make modular instrumentation solutions that are easily tailored to the needs of the end user at a fraction of the footprint and cost.

We use custom-designed circuit boards that interface with Arduino-based controllers to make tools that get science done.

Since each item is customized and printed specifically for the needs of the user, little inventory is required


Dr. Elad Harel
Diffractionless Optical Imaging

Our understanding of cell biology has been dramatically accelerated by our ability to peer directly into the cell with increasing spatial and temporal resolution. However, while incredible progress has been made in this realm, the ability to perform live cell imaging with molecular-level resolution remains elusive.

The technology presented here will deeply impact our understanding of complex biological processes through unprecedented access to the choreography of proteins in living systems. Such insights could greatly benefit society by directly observing the action of drugs inside living systems, thereby accelerating drug development. The technology could also be used in other settings, such as
screening materials for defects during manufacturing or enhancing the resolution of security footage.


Dr. Mahmood Haq, Dr. Oleksii Karpenko, Dr. Lalita Udpa, Dr. Satish Udpa
Dual-Mode Sensor Array for Eddy Current Testing and Capacitive Imaging

Rapid, cost-effective non-destructive evaluation (NDE) is necessary to drive the wide-scale adoption of advanced composites in the automotive sector, including Carbon and Glass Fiber Reinforced
Polymers (CFRP & GFRP) The ability to inspect every part with advanced NDE technology will enable increased use of advanced composites/fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) materials in auto-body structures to enable significant weight reduction and improved strength for fuel efficiency and crushworthiness.

Rapid inspection of FRP is performed using a dual-mode eddy current and capacitive array probe, having multiple sensors with concentric windings fabricated on a multi-layered flexible printed
circuit board (FPCB).

Combining Eddy current testing (ECT) and capacitive imaging (CI)techniques in a single dual-mode sensor provides the necessary synergy to detect different types of flaws that wouldn’t be
otherwise both detectable by only one technique


Dr. Denise Kay
Enspired Solutions

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of man-made chemicals that have been used in a variety of industrial and consumer applications for over 60 years. High PFAS exposure can lead to liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.

Current applied technologies are not getting rid of the contamination but rather capturing the PFAS and transferring it elsewhere, becoming new sources for PFAS to re-enter the environment.

Enspired Solutions has developed a proprietary chemistry in a fully automated reactor, the PFASigator, that is proven to mineralize PFAS in solution. PFAS reductive defluorination is a unique chemistry coupled with ultraviolet light to stimulate a reaction that systematically disassembles PFAS molecules to water, fluoride, and simple non-toxic carbon compounds without the need for off-site disposal


Dr. Anil Jain
DeepPrint and PrintsGAN: Innovations for Fingerprint Recognition

We have designed a deep network called DeepPrint, to learn a fixed-length feature vector (only 200 bytes) for each fingerprint image. This feature vector can quickly and accurately recognize fingerprint images allowing for a two-stage recognition scheme for large-scale searches involving databases with tens of millions of users.

Inherent to training DeepPrint is the need for a large-scale fingerprint dataset. PrintsGAN, a highly realistic synthetic fingerprint generator, also based on deep networks, can generate multiple fingerprint impressions of the same finger.

Our DeepPrint model, trained on a combination of real fingerprint images and synthetic fingerprint images from PrintsGAN, can compare fingerprints thousands of times faster than prevailing commercial systems while maintaining similar levels of accuracy


Dr. Christel Beverly
GameCHNGRZ Universe

GameCHNGRZ Universe is a gamified mobile app that allows historically underserved high school students to engage in college and career exploration in virtual, low-stakes scenarios.

In GameCHNGRZ Universe, players traverse across multiple different planets, exploring different skills and possibilities for their future. Each planet is specific to a different area of interest, and as the students engage in different activities within a specific planet, the program builds a resume of interest and ability.

Meanwhile, GameCHNGRZ Universe saves counselors time and improves their ability to make meaningful connections with students using an embedded algorithm to meet state-mandated education requirements.


Dr. Nadya Mamoozadeh, Dr. Nihar Mahapatra, Dr. Mariah Meek
iCatch: Smart Species Identification Technology

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major cause of global marine fish stocks and is enabled by an inability to rapidly and reliably verify the identity of species in the field.

iCatch harnesses the combined power of genomics and artificial intelligence (AI) to offer a low-cost, fast, accurate, field-deployable, and user-friendly solution to species identification problems.

The iCatch smartphone app enables AI-assisted visual and extra-visual species identification, and if further confirmation of species identity is needed, the app guides users through genomic testing using an iCatch rapid test kit.

iCatch empowers fisheries managers, law enforcement officers, and seafood retailers to combat IUU fishing by advancing responsible ocean stewardship


Dr. Tom Guarr
Jolt Energy Storage Technologies, LLC

Although the cost of generating electricity via wind and solar is at historic lows, a practical way to store energy from these sources is needed. The Jolt Organic Battery offers an inexpensive, reliable, safe, and environmentally sound means to do just that.

While conventional batteries are conveniently packaged in a can or a pouch, a relatively new type of battery called a redox flow battery (RFB) separates the chemical components from the electrical components. An RFB consists of tanks containing energy-rich liquids which are pumped through an electrochemical cell where the chemical energy is converted to electrical energy. The unique design of the Jolt battery eliminates the two most expensive components in a typical RFB and provides for simplified operation.


Dr. Denis Proshlyakov, Dr. Julia Busik
Microfluidic Respirometry

Respiration is the cornerstone of energy production in living cells – human and animal alike. Malfunction of this molecular machinery is at the epicenter of many metabolic diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and many more.

Microfluidic respirometry tracks oxygen consumption by energy-producing organelles in a variety of samples, from isolated mitochondria (power plants of the cell) to whole cells and tissue fragments.

Superior sensitivity is achieved by isolating samples from the environment utilizing oxygen-impermeable materials and also by reducing sample volume to ~1 microliter. Together, this allows us to measure minuscule samples accurately, while flow-through microfluidic chips also allow us to conduct repeated and long-term measurements on samples trapped in the chamber.


Dr. Qi Hua Fan
PFAS Treatment Technologies

The disclosed technologies can efficiently capture and destroy per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water. Immediate applications include the effective treatment of groundwater, drinking water, industrial wastewater, and landfill leachates.

The concentrations of PFAS in contaminated water vary over a wide range from part per trillion (ppt) to part per million (ppm). Therefore, different strategies must be adopted. One of the disclosed technologies is based on electrical field-enhanced adsorption to remove low-concentration PFAS from a large volume of contaminated water. The other technology is based on a magnetic field-enhanced plasma to destroy concentrated PFAS in wastewater and on solid adsorbent.


Dr. Yiming Deng, Dr. Mohand Alzuhiri
Structured Light-Based Inspection Tools for the Inspection of Internal Surface of Cylindrical Structures

The invention presents a set of 3D imaging structured light-based tools that were designed for the inspection of the internal surfaces of cylindrical entities with potential application in the inspection
of pipeline networks. The tools are capable of providing RGB-D inspection capability of the internal pipe surface while maintaining a small sensor footprint to allow insertion in small-diameter pipelines


Dr. Muhammad Rabnawaz
Energy-Efficient and Quantitative Depolymerization of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) (SPI Code #1) and Polystyrene (PS) (SPI Code #6)

For PET depolymerization, high temperature and longer reaction duration are required due to the semi-crystalline nature of this polymer. We have developed an efficient PET recycling methodology by suppressing the crystalline domains via melt pretreatment. This strategy has reduced the time and temperature required for PET depolymerization significantly.

We have also developed a simple yet effective approach for PS-depolymerization, where the presence of table salt or an oxidized copper scrubber, has improved styrene monomer recovery by 25%. The recovered styrene monomer was repolymerized without further purification, and the thermal properties of the obtained PS closely matched those of the virgin PS.


Dr. Dechun Wang
Soybean Varieties with High Protein, High Oleic, and Other Health-Beneficial Traits for Food Uses

MSU’s soybean breeding program produces non-GMO varieties with desirable traits for buyers and consumers, including improved health-beneficial compositions, such as high protein, and vegetable oils with high oleic, and low saturated fatty acids. These varieties offer opportunities for soybean growers and seed companies to increase their profits and benefit consumers with healthier food.

We breed multiple non-GMO soybean varieties with desirable traits for buyers, including high protein, high sucrose, high oleic, low linolenic, low saturated fatty acid, large-seeded for tofu, small-seeded for natto, and clear hilum. Many of these varieties carry resistance to major soybean diseases such as soybean cyst nematode, phytophthora, white mold, and sudden death syndrome


Dr. Dan Henton, Dr. Jack Kruper, Dr. Edmund Stark, Dr. Tracy Zhang
MSU St Andrews – Contract Industrial Research and Opportunities for Aspiring High School Scientists

Our staff at MSU St. Andrews has over 150 years of industrial experience in discovery/process chemistry.

Over the past two years, we have amplified our contract research portfolio to include several industrial clients, including specialty chemical, catalyst optimization as well as contract polymer projects.
We enlist exemplary high school students through summer internships and engage them in these real-world industry projects in our 10,000 sq/ft of laboratory space which is fully equipped with state-of-the-art analytical capabilities

We seek sustainable relationships with our clients, and the majority of them welcome student participation. Many of our students have matriculated to graduate studies in Molecular Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering


Dr. Karen Chou
Sustainable Ag Management Tool

The SAM Tool empowers crop producers to improve the sustainability of their production practices by dynamically analyzing risks to the environment and to the health of workers and consumers.

SAM Tool is a digital platform that enhances sustainable practices by providing at-a-glance comparative risk analysis and comparative efficacy of pesticides, presenting and monitoring sustainability criteria, and managing electronic records with GPS spray tracking and geotagged field scouting.

SAM Tool logs which fields were treated with which chemicals; this data makes it easy for producers to track chemical applications and meet reporting and usage requirements.

2023  Student Exhibitors

Adam Green – UniServices

Austin Pollock – Reel Free

Paul Reiss – Protein Pints

Kelly Bohan – You Can Feel the Music

Andrew Gladki – GOWork

Jaleah Rutledge & Kionna Henderson – Eminent Academics

Kevin G. Wang & Najya Robinson – Sparks of Purity

Riley Cook – Colony

2023 Innovation Celebration: Gallery

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