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Award Worthy UVA Innovators

Wondering who to nominate for the 2019 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award? Here are a few examples of UVA researchers and previous nominees who are working to make an impact with their research.

Anyone can nominate an individual or team for the Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year award. To nominate yourself or a colleague, submit a nomination letter to All nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. on January 15. 

Zhen Yan, Ph.D., Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine

  • Dept. of Medicine, Pharmacology, Molecular Physiology & Biological Physics
  • Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center
  • Director, Center of Skeletal Muscle Research

Zhen Yan, Ph.D. is the inventor of a novel mitochondrial reporter gene. His research explores how exercise impacts molecular health and how healthy muscles serve as a predictor of human mortality. He has disseminated his research to impact the field of Cardiovasular Medicine through publications in Nature Communication and in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Jogender Tushir-Singh, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

Jogender Tushir-Singh, Ph.D. engineered bi-specific antibodies that have shown promising results for ovarian and breast cancer patients. While his therapeutic approach is still in its early stages, he is working closely with UVA LVG to attract additional support from industry partners, alongside his existing project funding from the US Department of Defense.

Gary Koenig, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Chemical Engineering

Gary Koenig, Ph.D., has developed a new analytical tool for quality control analysis of lithium-ion batteries in an effort to find a solution for energy storage. Koenig earned a Jefferson Scholars Foundation faculty award earlier in 2018, and a grant from the 4-VA program in 2016 to further his research.

Gordon Laurie, Ph.D.


Department Cell Biology

Gordon Laurie, Ph.D., discovered Lacritin, a tear protein that promotes tearing, healing of the corneal surface, and regrowth of damaged corneal nerves. This discovery led to the development of a synthetic peptide of the Lacritin tear protein, which he named Lacripep. Dr. Laurie founded the company TearSolutions in 2013 to further the development of Lacripep. Since its founding, the company’s focus has been on a small subset of dry eye sufferers, those with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder whose symptoms include dry eye and dry mouth. TearSolutions is a UVA LVG Seed Fund portfolio company and is currently in phase II clinical trials. Dr. Laurie’s research has been funded by the National Eye Institute for more than 20 years.

Michael Solerno, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Radiology and Medical Imaging

Department of Medicine, Radiology, and Medical Imaging

Michael Solerno, M.D., Ph.D., is a pioneer in the field of fast imaging of MRI for coronary artery disease patients. His work has supported UVA in becoming a leader in developing methods to quantitatively assess diffuse fibrosis in the heart, including the right ventricle, which can produce heart failure in people with pulmonary hypertension.

Eric Houpt, M.D. & Dr. Jie Liu, Ph.D.

Professor of Medicine, Assistant Professor

Infectious Disease and International Health

Drs. Houpt and Liu’s extensive research portfolio include several projects focused on molecular diagnostic tools for infectious disease. A recent study explored stunted growth in children living in low-resource countries and involved testing 44,000 samples from children in eight countries. Using sensitive molecular testing helped identify several pathogens in asymptomatic children. Findings from this research were published in the scientific journal The Lancet Global Health.

The Etiology, Risk Factors and Interactions of Enteric Infections and Malnutrition and the Consequences for Child Health and Development Project (MAL-ED) study used as the basis for the research was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP1131125), the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (AI130326) and the Fogarty International Center.