Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UTSA Innovation Awards return to recognize commercialization excellence

UTSA Innovation Awards return to recognize commercialization excellence

David Akopian earned the 2021 Innovator of the Year award and R. Lyle Hood received the Innovator of the Year award for 2020.

APRIL 27, 2022 — The UTSA Office of Commercialization and Innovation (OCI) today presented its annual UTSA Innovation Awards to recognize excellence in discovery and impact within the university research community. These annual awards are presented in five categories, the lead indicators of UTSA's success at commercializing innovations.

This year’s event celebrated 40 researchers for their contributions, including two Innovators of the Year.

“UTSA helps build a brighter future for everyone. It incubates innovation. This event celebrates the curious minds across campus that bring this innovation, these new ideas to life—ideas and innovation that fix problems, address challenges and reveal what is possible. Producing new knowledge is one of the most powerful contributions that UTSA makes to the community, which we highlight with these awards,” said Rod McSherry, UTSA associate vice president for innovation and economic development.

OCI maintains a portfolio of over 300 active technologies, and UTSA has had more than 130 patents issued to date, with 90 in just the last five years. In FY21, the OCI team managed 25 new invention disclosures, filed 47 patents with 24 patents issued, signed six new licenses and options, licensed or optioned 24 technologies, and incubated four new startups in the university’s New Venture Incubator.

“Our collective goal has always been to foster and cultivate a research-intensive environment.”


The Innovator of the Year Award recognizes the highest innovation impact based on technology disclosures, patent filings, issued patents and licenses signed in the previous fiscal year. Today, the university honored David Akopian as its 2021 Innovator of the Year and R. Lyle Hood as its 2020 Innovator of the Year. Presentation of the latter award was delayed due to the pandemic.

Akopian is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and serves as associate dean of research in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design. His research interests include communication and navigation systems. His work focuses on wireless sensing, communication, location technologies and mobile applications such as human-machine automated dialog systems and mobile health.

He is the founder and director of the UTSA Software Communications and Navigation Systems Laboratory. Since 2004, his lab team has trained more than 100 students who have gone on to successful careers at a variety of companies, including Apple, Google, Samsung, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Intel and Verizon.

Akopian was inducted as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2016 and has over 30 patents. He was named Innovator of the Year after receiving four patents and one software copyright, and filing one utility patent and two provisional patents.

Hood is an assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Mechanical Engineering. His work focuses on medical device development, including controlled drug delivery systems, medical fiber optics, devices for trauma care, and BioMEMS/NEMS technologies. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense and National Science Foundation. He has published over 20 peer-reviewed articles in journals including Nanoscale, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine and Nature Communications.

Hood has five patents (with four pending) and 26 intellectual property filings/innovation disclosures overall. He has also mentored many talented graduate and undergraduate students.

Hood was named Innovator of the Year with one patent issued, four utility patent filings, six provisional patent filings, and eight new technology disclosures. He also played a pivotal role in creating two new companies.


Recipients of issued patents, trademarks, and/or copyrights are presented with a plaque and certificate memorializing their award.

There were 23 patent recipients with 20 patents issued in FY21 including:

  • 10,470,161 Method to improve broadband communication using powerlines; David Akopian
  • 10,819,663 Method to determine location using wireless radios; David Akopian
  • 11,105,932 A chatbot optimized for complex interactions; David Akopian, Nikolaos Gatsis
  • 10,511,392 Method to detect and mitigate attacks on GPS systems; David Akopian, Nikolaos Gatsis
  • 10,398,682 I 10,478,485 Compounds for the treatment of highly resistant bacteria; Bernard P. Arulanandam, M. Neal Guentzel
  • 10,501,867 A method for making Self-Aligned Tunable Metamaterials; Arturo A. Ayon
  • 10,983,247 An off-grid system to measure the weather and other environmental data; Kiran Bhaganagar
  • 10,569,252 A metal organic framework for industrial gas storage and separation; Banglin Chen
  • 10,594,261 | 10,985,700 Modulators that create terahertz radio waves controlled by piezoelectric materials; Ruyan Guo, Amar S. Bhalla
  • 10,866,485 Methods for modulating terahertz radio waves using magneto-electric materials; Ruyan Guo; Amar S. Bhalla
  • 10,674,917 Device to help create an alternative airway in emergency situations; Teja Guda
  • 10,925,928 A method to protect fertility in young male chemotherapy patients; Brian Hermann
  • 10,963,581 A method to securely store files created by mobile devices in the cloud; Mo Jamshidi, Paul Rad
  • 10,979,471 A system that detects potential criminals in sensitive areas such as ATMs; Mo Jamshidi, Patrick Jennings Benavidez
  • 10,891,110 Security improvements for implanted medical devices; Eugene Britto John
  • 10,465,227 Methods of identifying novel antimicrobial drug candidates; Jose L. Lopez-Ribot
  • 10,577,638 Device for microbial, detection, identification and anti-microbial susceptibility testing; Jose L. Lopez-Ribot
  • 10,457,676 Compounds for the treatment of cancer; Stanton McHardy
  • 10,452,451 A mother to better schedule jobs on cloud computing infrastructure; Paul Rad
  • 10,692,401 Device and methods to create interactive augmented reality patients for training medical personnel; John Quarles
  • 11,076,599 Improved antimicrobial nano-particles Kelly Nash
  • 10,842,384 Optical waveguide sensors for measuring temperature during a medical procedure; Jing Yong Ye
  • 11,099,189 Device to measure LPS contamination during production of medicines; Jing Yong Ye

There were three trademarks issued to nine recipients:

  • 6,571,821 ISAO Standards Organization; Gregory White, Larry Sjelin  
  • 6,550,120 Cybear; Gregory White, Donovan Medina, Noah Bonaguidi, Larry Sjelin, Garett Fox, Josef Klein, Travis Sjelin, Angel Cruz, Julina Macy
  • 6,173,920 Cyber Threat Defender; Gregory White, Donovan Medina, Noah Bonaguidi, Larry Sjelin, Garett Fox, Josef Klein, Travis Sjelin, Angel Cruz, Julina Macy


Innovators with optioned or licensed technology are recognized for generating monetary returns for the university. There are two recipients this year:

  • Chemical precursors used in pharmaceutical manufacturing; Doug Frantz
  • Augmented Reality patient simulation; John Quarles


UTSA recognized faculty, staff, students and team mentors who participated in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) for their commitment to explore new ideas and launch new discoveries. This accelerator program takes a mentored research team through the customer discovery process so that it can better understand both what is needed in the marketplace and what a business will need to be successful.

This year’s team was comprised of Sara Ahmed, assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Neal Guentzel from the Office of Commercialization and Innovation.


UTSA also recognized faculty members who were elected as Fellows or Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors. Election as an NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction given to academic inventors. These appointments recognize lifetime contributions.


Anson (Joo) L. Ong, the USAA Foundation Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean of administration and graduate programs in the university’s Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design, was named a 2021 NAI Fellow. Ong has secured over $40 million in total funding to support his UTSA research programs. He is recognized for medical device innovations using biomaterials and holds nine U.S. patents (three utility and six provisional patents) as well as four international utility patents. One of the latter is licensed to a U.S. medical device company.

One of his most significant patents, “Bi-layered Bone-like Scaffolds” (US8916228B2), describes a methodology to address a critical need to save injured limbs of soldiers wounded on the battlefield by preparing and using novel bi-layered bone-like scaffolds. He co-founded GenOsteo Inc, a start-up company that developed and commercialized medical products to aid military service personnel who suffered traumatic injuries. The impact of Ong’s contributions is particularly significant for San Antonio, a city with an extensive military community.

Ravi Sandhu, Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair and professor of computer science, was named a 2020 NAI Fellow.  Sandhu serves as executive director of the UTSA Institute for Cyber Security and the lead project investigator of the National Science Foundation Center for Security and Privacy Enhanced Cloud Computing.

Sandhu’s seminal papers on role-based access control established it as the dominant form of access control in computer permissions and as the best standard, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. His numerous other models and mechanisms have also had considerable real-world impact. 

Sandhu is an inventor on 31 security technology patents and has accumulated over 42,000 Google Scholar citations for his papers. For more than a decade, Sandhu served as chief scientist and co-founder at TriCipher, which was acquired by VMWare. He has also served as private sector consultant to numerous organizations including: McAfee, Verizon, Northrop Grumman, and Integris Health. A prolific and highly cited author, he has produced research that has been funded by the NSF, NSA, NIST, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Office of Naval Research, Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Office and private industry.

Rena Bizios, Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair in Biomedical Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering, was named a 2019 NAI Fellow. 

Bizios is a globally recognized educator and researcher who has made pioneering contributions to biomedical engineering curricula as well as groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of cell-material interactions at the tissue/implant interface with applications in implant biomaterials, tissue engineering and tissue regeneration. She has published more than 108 peer-reviewed papers and co-authored the landmark textbook An Introduction to Tissue-Biomaterial Interactions, which is a standard in the biomaterials field and has been adopted for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses by several biomedical engineering programs in the United States and abroad. 

Bizios is member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering and the Academy of Athens, Greece., and most recently the National Academy of Engineering in 2022. This most recent honor makes Bizios the only full-time faculty member in UTSA history to be elected to three U.S. national academies.

Ong, Sandhu, and Bizios join current NAI fellows David Akopian, Bernard Arulanandam, Taylor Eighmy and Michael Yaszemski.


NAI Senior Members are active faculty members, scientists and administrators from NAI Member Institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation, producing technologies that have brought or aspire to bring real impact on the welfare of society.

The following faculty members were inducted as Senior Fellows in 2021:

Amanda Fernandez is an assistant professor in the College of Sciences (COS)’ Department of Computer Science. She is a member of the MATRIX AI Consortium and the primary investigator in the UTSA Vision and Artificial Intelligence Lab (VAIL), where researchers construct deep theoretical models by considering adversarial examples and cybersecurity approaches and apply these models to real-world technologies.

Thomas Forsthuber is the Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Chair in Biotechnology and a professor in the COS’ Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. As a member of the university’s South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases and its Brain Health Consortium, he leads a research team seeking to understand how the immune system, in particular T cells, contribute to autoimmune diseases and how to modulate T cell immunity for therapeutic purposes in humans.

Eugene Britton John is a professor in the Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He directs the Laboratory for Low Power VLSI Design and Machine Learning Hardware. His research interests include energy-efficient computing, ultra-low energy computing for implantable cardiac devices, AI/machine learning, machine learning workload analysis and characterization, hardware security, and computer architecture and benchmarking.

The following faculty members were inducted as Senior Fellows in 2020:

Douglas Frantz, the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Distinguished Chair in Chemistry, is a co-inventor on potential drugs that can control how stem cells differentiate into different cell types (U.S. Patent 8,686,012). This particular invention has significant ramifications in areas such as regenerative medicine, diabetes and neurodegeneration where stem cells could help treat devastating human diseases.

Stanton McHardy
is the director of the Center for Innovative Drug Discovery and a UTSA associate professor of chemistry. He is most proud of his U.S. Patent 8,124,639, “Bicyclic [3.1.0] heteroaryl amides as type 1 glycine transport inhibitors.” The lead compound he discovered is a potent and selective glycine-transport inhibitor, which went to advanced human clinical trials as a possible treatment for schizophrenia and associated cognitive deficits.

Paul Rad is a Peter T. Flawn Endowed Professor and associate professor of cyber analytics and artificial intelligence. He received patents for his inventions related to artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms for workload scheduling and security on multi-clouds. One was for systems and methods for scheduling of workload-aware jobs on multi-clouds and for systems and methods for secure file transmission and cloud storage. He received an additional patent for “Intellectual Property Transitioning to Industry,” where some of his AI algorithms have been licensed to a startup in Austin.

John Quarles, associate professor of computer science, received U.S. Patent 10,692,401 for “Devices and Methods for Interactive Augmented Reality.” Quarles, along with clinicians and business professionals, formed MedCognition Inc to help save lives through the PerSim® augmented reality (AR), holographic medical patient simulator training system. The technology’s immersive AR overcomes key shortcomings of traditional, mannequin-based medical simulation that do not adequately prepare medical personnel to perform well when presented with uncommon, dangerous medical conditions.

“Over the years, these awards have evolved not only to recognize commercial and societal impact of our research community but also to inspire innovators to look outside their disciplines and fields for collaboration and inquiry,” said Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA vice president for research, economic development and knowledge enterprise and a NAI Fellow. “Our collective goal has always been to foster and cultivate a research-intensive environment in which all researchers can thrive to address society’s pressing challenges in whichever discipline they choose.”

Sarah Hada

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University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

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