Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award


2020 Innovators of the Year Improve Care Retention and Outcomes Among HIV Patients with Innovative Mobile Health Technology

UVA Licensing & Ventures Group honors interdisciplinary UVA School of Medicine research team

Charlottesville, VA (January 23, 2020) - The University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group (UVA LVG) announces Rebecca Dillingham, M.D./M.P.H., Harrison Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Medicine, and Karen Ingersoll, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, as the 2020 Edlich-Henderson Innovators of the Year. This endowed award recognizes University faculty members or a team of faculty researchers whose work is making a major impact on society.

UVA LVG recognizes Drs. Dillingham and Ingersoll for their efforts directed toward ending the HIV epidemic through innovations in HIV care delivery. Their mobile health (mHealth) technology, PositiveLinks, is a sustainable and scalable solution to promote engagement with HIV care. It is a HIPPA-compliant mobile platform that helps people living with HIV to manage their health better, in partnership with their clinical providers. 

To date, nearly 600 people living with HIV in Virginia are enrolled in PositiveLinks. The app is commercially available through Warm Health Technology, a company founded to support the dissemination of the mobile platform across the U.S.

“HIV is a treatable disease. In many ways, it is easier to manage than other chronic diseases, like diabetes. Unfortunately, only about 50% of people living with HIV in the U.S. engage consistently with care,” said Dr. Dillingham. “Using mobile health solutions, we have seen improvements in engagement with care, even amongst our patients facing the most challenges. PositiveLinks members can engage with the platform to seek information, support, or care coordination when and where it is most convenient for them.”

In December 2019, PositiveLinks earned national best practice recognition from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and from the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). 

“Drs. Dillingham and Ingersoll have continuously innovated their original text-messaged-based intervention for nearly a decade alongside the rise of the digital health industry,” said Michael Straightiff, executive director of the Licensing & Ventures Group. “PositiveLinks pushes the boundaries on new-age solutions for the HIV care community and stands to significantly lower transmission rates among users of the app. This interdisciplinary research team has and will continue to enrich and improve lives with PositiveLinks, and we are thrilled to honor their accomplishments with this award.”

The PositiveLinks app features self-monitoring tools for medication adherence, daily stress, and mental health check-ins, appointment reminders, and secure messaging with the healthcare team. Users gain access to an anonymous community message board where they can share experiences, seek and provide social support, and build connections, all of which improve the management of a chronic disease. 

PositiveLinks includes proven psychological tools that engage patients and provide support for specific health behaviors that promote better self-management of HIV,” said Dr. Ingersoll. The platform also includes tools for physicians and administrative staff to support improved self-management. 

UVA LVG will honor Drs. Dillingham and Ingersoll at the Innovator of the Year Award Ceremony on Tuesday, February 18, from 3:30-5:00 p.m. in the Rotunda Dome Room. The 2020 recipients will deliver a keynote lecture highlighting their work with PositiveLinks at the event, which is open to the public.

Celebrating impact through innovation

The highest honor bestowed on University of Virginia innovators, the Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year award recognizes an individual or team each year whose research discovery is making a major impact.

Named for the late UVA Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard F. Edlich (1939-2013) and Christopher J. ("Goose") Henderson, an 35-year financial industry veteran with experience in strategic planning, risk management, sales, marketing and business development, the award is a tribute to their enduring support of and commitment to the University and its innovators.

In 2012, the award title and criteria were modified to be more inclusive of University innovators pursuing a variety of different paths to achieve impact for their discoveries. Eligible nominees are current University of Virginia faculty, staff or students whose research discoveries are making a major impact. Prior to 2012, the award was known as the Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year award. Award winners receive a $10,000 cash prize and formal recognition at a special awards reception.

Past honorees:

2019         Lee Ritterband, Ph.D.

2018         W. Jeffrey Elias, M.D.

2017         Brooks H. Pate, Ph.D.

2016         John A. Hossack, Ph.D.               N. Scott Barker, Ph.D.               Arthur W. Lichtenberger, Ph.D.               Robert M. Weikle II, Ph.D.

2015         Benton H. Calhoun, Ph.D.                  James A. Smith, Ph.D.

2014         J. Randall Moorman, M.D.                  Douglas E. Lake, Ph.D.

2013         Marcia A. Invernizzi, Ph.D.

2012         Robin A. Felder, Ph.D.

2011         Boris P. Kovatchev, Ph.D.

2010         Kevin R. Lynch, Ph.D.                  Timothy L. Macdonald, Ph.D.

2009         John P. Mugler, Ph.D.                  James R. Brookeman, Ph.D.

2008         George T. Rodeheaver, Ph.D.

2007         Wladek Minor, Ph.D.

2006         George T. Gillies, Ph.D.

2005         Benjamin M. Gaston, M.D.                 John F. Hunt, Ph.D.

2004         Haydn N.G. Wadley, Ph.D.

2003         William A. Petri Jr., M.D., Ph.D.                  Barbara J. Mann, Ph.D.

2002         Joel M. Linden, Ph.D.

2001         Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, Ph.D.

2000         Ronald P. Taylor, Ph.D.

1999         John C. Herr, Ph.D.

1997         Richard L. Guerrant, M.D.                 Timothy L. Macdonald, Ph.D.

1996        Jessica J. Brand                 Patrice G. Guyenet, Ph.D.                 Richard D. Pearson, M.D.                 Janine C. Jagger, Ph.D.

1995        Donald F. Hunt, Ph.D.                 Jeffrey Shabanowitz, Ph.D.                 George C. Stafford Jr., Ph.D

1994        Gerald L. Mandell, M.D.                 Gail W. Sullivan

1993       Joseph Larner, M.D., Ph.D.

1992       Robert M. Berne, M.D.                Luiz Belardinelli, M.D.                Rafael Rubio, Ph.D. 



Lee Ritterband, Jean and Ronald Butcher Eminent Scholars Professor and director of the Center for Behavioral Health & Technology, says helping people overcome severe insomnia is “incredibly gratifying.” 

(Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

February 11, 2019 

Author: Whitelaw Reidwdr4d@virginia.edu

A fifth-grade school teacher is at her wits’ end.

Most nights it takes the woman – who is in her 40s – at least two hours to fall asleep. Almost every night, she wakes up at 3 a.m., then can’t get back to sleep for another two hours.

She has tried everything she can think of – a warm bath, reading before bed, leaving the television on – to no avail. Her husband has been supportive, but now feels helpless and is starting to lose patience.

This woman exemplifies the estimated 30 million people in the U.S. suffering from chronic insomnia.

It was with this in mind that University of Virginia School of Medicine professor Lee Ritterband created SHUTi (Sleep Healthy Using the Internet) – a digital therapeutic that uses cutting-edge technology to administer cognitive behavioral therapy for people suffering from insomnia.

In more than two dozen clinical trials – many involving the likes of the fifth-grade school teacher – SHUTi has reduced insomnia severity by an amount comparable to face-to-face therapy. Studies in the U.S., Australia, Norway and Denmark have also shown that SHUTi users experience less depression, anxiety, fatigue and other co-occurring conditions.

SHUTi is just one of many digital therapeutics Ritterband and his team have created and tested. In recognition of the impact of his innovative solutions, the University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group has named Ritterband the 2019 Innovator of the Year.

“We are thrilled to honor Lee Ritterband for his work pioneering the integration of digital solutions for patients living with a variety of issues, including insomnia, cancer, diabetes, and substance abuse, just to name a few,” says Michael Straightiff, executive director of the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group. “Ritterband sits firmly at the helm of this emerging field and his efforts to make these treatments available on a mass scale through commercialization stand to significantly reduce the overall cost of behavioral health care.”

Most of the interventions created by Ritterband and his team are fully automated programs that don’t require regular doctor’s appointments. This allows for greater ability to scale and disseminate the programs because the only necessity is an internet connection. 

“We work hard to automate as much of the intervention as we possibly can,” Ritterband said. “The minute we add a person to the mix is the minute we dramatically reduce the ability to deploy these programs on a large scale.”

Of course, some disorders need an involved clinician, but Ritterband has shown that for many people, an automated program works incredibly well. SHUTi is no exception. Users log onto the web-based treatment platform through either their computer or mobile device. After creating a sleep diary and answering a number of questions pertaining to their sleep habits, SHUTi’s proprietary algorithms determine a patient’s ideal sleep window. 

Users continue to enter their sleep diaries over time which further tailors the program to the individual users’ needs. The program is also filled with content, animations, interactions and videos, all to provide the treatment in an engaging and effective way.

Initially, Ritterband said users have some rough nights as they try to adjust to the new sleep window. But in the end, if they stick with the therapy, they can break their old habits and start to get better sleep. He came up with the idea when he was doing clinical work at UVA and realized the need to make sleep therapies more widely available.

“Everything just kind of exploded from there,” he said.

Ritterband’s mission is to increase access to effective and affordable behavioral health care.

“It’s very simple,” Ritterband said. “It’s basically taking what we do as clinicians and automating it and making it available for the public. The UVA Licensing & Ventures Group has been a tremendous partner in helping make that happen.”

Digital therapeutics are a new subsection of digital health that aim to deliver therapies through the internet or mobile devices.

According to Joseph Jennings, who co-founded BeHealth Solutions with Ritterband and former UVA faculty member Frances Thorndike, independent researchers are predicting the global digital therapeutics market will reach $9 billion by 2025, up from about $2 billion in 2017.

Jennings said the estimated 30 million people in the U.S. suffering from chronic insomnia carries an economic burden of more than $100 billion per year.

“SHUTi is a great innovation because it provides a highly effective solution for a huge problem,” Jennings said. “Very few people have access to traditional therapy because there are fewer than 700 providers of the therapy available in the U.S. to serve the 30 million insomnia sufferers, and those providers are typically concentrated in high population areas.”

Ritterband, who collaborated with Thorndike on the development of SHUTi, said it’s been “incredibly gratifying” to see his idea help so many people.

“I’m a clinical psychologist and one of the things I was trained to do was help people,” he said. “This allowed me to do it in a much broader way. Instead of the hundreds of people we might be able to help in a clinic, we can scale these platforms to help thousands, tens of thousands – or maybe millions at some point – by making these kinds of interventions available. They’re lower cost, they’re more accessible, they’re empirically validated.”

In addition to his recent work with SHUTi, Ritterband and the Center for Behavioral Health and Technology support the development of other internet interventions including:

  • CARRII, to reduce alcohol-exposed pregnancy risk;
  • UCanPoopToo, to help families of children with encopresis;
  • mySmartSkin, to increase skin self-examination and sun protection behaviors among patients with melanoma;
  • BGATHome, to help diabetes patients recognize and anticipate extreme blood glucose fluctuations;
  • iSHIFTup, to prevent pressure ulcers in adults with spinal cord injury.

“We can provide treatments to people who might not otherwise be able to get them.”

Ritterband said he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what he has without collaboration from his many colleagues and multi-disciplinary team at UVA, support of the School of Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, and strategic partners like the Licensing & Ventures Group.

“They’ve been amazingly supportive,” he said. “I have colleagues at other places where they get ‘No’s’ a lot. Here, I don’t get that. I get, ‘How can we make this work?’ People are really excited about what we’re doing and they want to help us find a way to do it.”

The UVA Licensing & Ventures Group will celebrate Ritterband at the 2019 Innovator of the Year Award Ceremony in the Rotunda Dome Rome on Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, though registration is required. Register here.

2018 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year 

The University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group (LVG) has named W. Jeffrey Elias, MD, the 2018 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year, an award given to University faculty members whose research is making a major impact on society. Elias is recognized for pioneering the use of focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor, and for leading the clinical trial that resulted in Food and Drug Administration approval of the approach to treat the condition.

Dr. Jeffrey Elias saw his clinic change overnight with the advent of a new procedure to treat essential tremor. (Photo courtesy of the UVA Health System)


February 08, 2018 

UVA TodayWhitelaw Reidwdr4d@virginia.edu

Millions around the world suffering from essential tremor now have a far-less-invasive option than brain surgery to treat the disorder, thanks to University of Virginia School of Medicine neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Elias who has pioneered the use of focused ultrasound.

Elias pushed the technology – which eliminates the need for incision – from clinical trials to FDA approval in only five years.

Last week, the University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group named Elias the 2018 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year.

“He has made a remarkable impact not only for his patients, but on the field of neurosurgery,” the Licensing & Ventures Group’s executive director, Michael Straightiff, said. “He is leading the way for innovative clinicians in translational research at UVA.”

When focused ultrasound technology came to UVA in 2009, the idea was to use it in the treatment of brain tumors.

However, Elias pursued an additional application. He believed the technology could treat essential tremor, a condition that afflicts an estimated 10 million Americans.

The technology allows for a highly precise treatment that focuses sound waves within the brain to create heat, interrupting malfunctioning circuits that are responsible for the tremor symptoms. Using MRI, clinicians can monitor the procedure in real time and adjust the treatment based on the patient’s response.

After starting a lab and organizing a clinical trial, the first treatment on a patient in 2011 was, according to Elias, “wildly successful.”

When some 2,000 people applied for 15 spots in the next clinical trial, Elias knew he was really onto something.

“That demonstrated the interest in an incisionless procedure,” Elias said.

Subsequently, Elias published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that created buzz, along with some debate. “It was reintroducing stereotactic lesioning to a field that had kind of abandoned it,” said Elias, referring to the technique that uses a coordinate system to locate small targets in the body.

But over time, Elias said there has been a paradigm shift in the approach to the treatment of movement disorders.

“The mainstream procedure had shifted to brain stimulation,” Elias explained. “Stereotactic lesioning of the brain was kind of viewed as kind of a step back, or less of an advance. But the fact that we could do these precise treatments without any kind of incision, implanting any kind of device, or having any kind of real surgery, was very appealing to patients.”

Elias saw his clinic change overnight. Suddenly, patients were driving their own care. “Initially, they were more interested in this procedure than their doctors,” he said.

After Elias conducted a successful international study, the technology received FDA approval in July of 2016.

Today, Elias said, UVA is one of about 10 places in the United States that perform the procedure.

Elias said the development of the procedure was a team effort involving the areas of imaging, engineering, neuroscience and surgery.

“No one group could have done it,” he said. “The sum of the parts way exceeded the whole.

“It really demonstrates how teams and technologies come together. It shows what you can do in medicine.”

The Innovator of the Year is an award given to University faculty members whose research is making a major impact on society.

Dr. Jeff Keller, the chief innovation officer at the UVA Health System, said Elias is doing just that.

“You have to have someone with a lot of smarts, a lot of vision and a lot of persistence – like Jeff – to fit the pieces together and deliver better care for patients,” said Keller, a colleague of Elias.

Elias, who will be honored Feb. 27 during a ceremony at the Rotunda, said UVA proved to be the perfect incubator.

“We had great collaborators, great support of the institution and my departments,” he said. “I just didn’t feel any barriers.

“This is a place where we can do big things.”

2017 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year

Brooks H. Pate, Ph.D.


By Katie McNally
(UVA Today)

Although he’s earned many titles and honors for his advancements in molecular research, Brooks Pate sees himself first as a citizen-scientist. The University of Virginia’s William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Chemistry is committed to conducting basic research for the public good.

Pate and his research team are most known for developing a new method for rapid molecular analysis called “chirped pulse Fourier transform molecular rotational resonance.” It shortened the standard time for molecular analysis from days or weeks to mere minutes. This analytical ability is opening new doors in everything from pharmaceutical research to the study of interstellar matter.

After its creation, Pate worked with the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group to license the technique to the Charlottesville start-up BrightSpec, which began developing it for wider commercial use.

In recognition of this work and his commitment to research for public benefit, the Licensing & Ventures Group named Pate the 2017 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year.

“Brooks is a prolific innovator, a leader in his field and a standout entrepreneur,” said Michael P. Straightiff, the group’s executive director. “We are thrilled to be recognizing such an accomplished scholar and we cannot wait to hear what he will discover next.”

Before the award was presented Thursday, UVA Today spoke with Pate to find out more about his research and how he views scientific research as a civic duty.

Q. What is the focus of your research?

A. The field I’m in is physical chemistry. It’s about trying to make sure we quantitatively know what structures of molecules are and how those molecules react to form new molecules.

A lot of what we do is look at areas where theory is on the forefront, where they’re really developing new tools to predict the behavior of molecules and matter and then look at what needs to happen in the lab to provide test data to make sure that theory is on an accurate path.

Our side of it – although I have worked a little bit on the theory side – has really been creating new scientific instruments to advance molecular measurement in larger, more complicated systems. That’s always been the challenge for us – the basic science pursuit of how to advance the firm understanding of the way molecules behave.

Q. What are some examples of how that molecular measurement is used?

A. We really are focused on extending the applications of our technique towards chirality issues.

The chirality of a molecule refers to a subtle difference in geometry. For example, two chiral glucose molecules are made up of the same number of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms and have the same distances and angles between these atoms, but they are structured as mirror images of each other, not exact copies. One is “left-handed” and one is “right-handed.” Chemical reactions within the human body can be different depending on whether the molecule is left-handed or right-handed and that difference is important for the efficacy and safety of new drugs.

My field of physical chemistry has produced the first new approach in well over a decade to measure the handedness of molecules. We are developing technology for chiral analysis and know already that this has important applications for the development and production of pharmaceuticals.

Q. What do you believe are the largest challenges facing modern scientific research?

A. I’ve become concerned that not enough people understand the social contract scientists have in this country. The idea of that contract goes back to a very famous document called “Science: The Endless Frontier,” commissioned by President Roosevelt and written by Vannevar Bush. It came out just after World War II and Bush’s argument is that basic research builds knowledge that enables large advances in technology and spurs the creation of jobs, improves health and makes it possible to create products in less time. For that reason, he argues, it is important that the public invest in basic research. This report led to the creation of the National Science Foundation – the agency that has supported the instrument development work in my laboratory.

Pate was named 2017 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year in recognition of the advances he's made in molecular analysis.

Prior to World War II, there was very little public funding of basic research. That document set out the pact to support it. Essentially that pact is, “We – the public – will pay the scientists to do the work the scientists want to do because we think it’s going to have an impact on society. In exchange, when the scientists discover something, it’s their responsibility as a scientist to bring that out and commercialize it.” That model is really important to how we think about science, so I’m happy that my work follows this vision of basic research advancing the public good.

It’s not always easy to explain to people what I do in my lab and why they should care, but this pact is why. My research has broad applications and what can come out of it are advancements like the techniques we helped uncover to create more effective pharmaceuticals.

Q. How do you bring this scientific pact into the classroom?

A. I try to make students understand that it’s fine to pursue basic research – it’s the most fun thing you can do if you’re of that mindset of just solving problems every day – but you have to understand the contract you have with the public to get that information out in some form. That may be through education or by making sure that new innovations are brought to the public market – that involves working with places like the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group to protect intellectual property and help spur further development.

I also come from a family of public servants. My father worked for the National Security Agency, he was a career public servant, and my mother was a public school teacher. I was raised in the environment that having a job that helps your fellow citizens is a privilege and you need to do it as well as possible. So I try to pass on that mindset to my students, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

I tell them, “Your country is investing in you now so that eventually you can help your fellow citizens and humanity more broadly.”