Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award

2018 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.

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 UVA Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard F. Edlich and Christopher J. ("Goose") Henderson, a 25-year veteran of privately owned financial services businesses, 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.

2018 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year

W. Jeffrey Elias, M.D.

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.”

Past honorees:

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. 

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.”

2016 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year

John A. Hossack, Ph.D. 

Hossack, a professor of biomedical engineering, has focused his research on the use of ultrasound and microbubbles in imaging and drug delivery. His innovative discoveries played a role in three successful startup companies headquartered in Charlottesville. 

Hossack uses ultrasound technology – similar to a highly scaled-down version of sonar – for cardiac imaging, bone-surface imaging and molecular imaging. He frequently uses microbubbles – tiny gas-filled bubbles in the range of 1 to 4 microns in diameter – in combination with focused ultrasound to allow for localized drug delivery.

“Ultrasound is particularly good for imaging the heart, because it’s capable of fast acquisition, and it’s inexpensive, portable and easy to operate,” Hossack said. “One of the key observations we obtain from ultrasound is the changing geometry of organs or vessels, so that we obtain measures of organ function, and in the case of the heart, of how well the heart is operating as a pump for the blood circulatory system.” Read more.

2016 Edlich-Henderson Innovators of the Year

N. Scott Barker, Ph.D.; Arthur W. Lichtenberger, Ph.D.; Robert M. Weikle II, Ph.D.

Barker and  Weikle, professors of electrical and computer engineering, and Lichtenberger, research professor of electrical and computer engineering, respectively, have spent years working on materials, devices, circuits and systems for the measurement and detection of terahertz radiation, or THz.
Terahertz radiation refers to frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum that are invisible to the naked eye and that fall in between microwave and infrared wavelengths. Until recently, the means to detect the tiny wavelengths of THz did not exist.

Their work has practical applications in fields like radio astronomy and compact radar surveillance. The team developed
a unique THz wafer probe to measure the electromagnetic characteristics of electronic devices and circuits. Their small probe eliminates much of the cost and error associated with traditional methods of THz measurement and allows users to measure higher frequencies. Read more.