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Entrepreneurship for Postdocs
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Resources | Award Recipients: 2010 | 2011 | 2012


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Entrepreneurship Knowledge, Training and Networks at the Kauffman Foundation

Kauffman Foundation Postdoctoral Entrepreneur Award Recipients

From 2010 through 2012, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) awarded the Kauffman Foundation Postdoctoral Entrepreneur Awards, which recognized exceptional former and current postdocs working to commercialize research. The awards were presented as part of the NPA Annual Meeting.



Stephen Turner, Ph.D., Kauffman Foundation Outstanding Postdoctoral Entrepreneur

Stephen Turner, Ph.D., founded Pacific Biosciences (formerly Nanofluidics) and secured its Series A funding in 2004. Pacific Biosciences recently was named the top venture-funded company in the United States (The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2010). Turner was awarded a doctorate in physics by Cornell University, where he worked with professor Harold Craighead to study the behavior of biomolecules in nano-fabricated structures. His work contributed to the establishment of the Nanobiotechnology Center at Cornell. He was a member of the project team at Cornell which developed the technology now employed by Pacific Biosciences, and was co-author of the cover story in Science magazine (January 31, 2003) that introduced the technology to the scientific community.

He is the author of over 30 scientific papers in various fields, and is listed as the inventor on nine U.S. patents and more than 20 published patent applications.

Turner was recipient of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review "TR100" Award in 2003 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Distinguished Young Alumnus Award in 2008. He is a sitting member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant review study section on new technologies. He oversees the scientific and technical direction of Pacific Biosciences and is a member of its Board of Directors.

Antonio Webb, Ph.D., Kauffman Foundation Emerging Postdoctoral Entrepreneur

Antonio Webb, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University and co-founder of VesselTek Biomedical, an Evanston, Illinois-based vascular products company. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Colorado School of Mines and his master's and doctorate in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University. As part of his graduate work, Webb developed a novel family of biodegradable elastomers for soft tissue engineering that have become the basis for VesselTek's products.

After graduating, Webb, along with his graduate advisor, Dr. Guillermo Ameer, and vascular surgeon, Dr. Melina Kibbe, formed VesselTek Biomedical in March 2008. The company has identified a polymer and FDA approved off-patent drug that have beneficial effects on blood vessels. VesselTek is currently developing that technology into a series of products.

Webb has served as principal investigator on National Science Foundation (NSF) and NIH small business innovation research grants and is currently working to develop controlled drug eluting vascular grafts and perivascular wraps to prevent neointimal hyperplasia and thrombosis associated with vascular injury.


Noah Weisleder, Ph.D., Kauffman Foundation Outstanding Postdoctoral Entrepreneur

Noah Weisleder, Ph.D., received his bachelor's degree in biotechnology and molecular biology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a doctorate in cell biology from Baylor College of Medicine. He conducted his postdoctoral studies at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School where he is now an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. During this time, he has published dozens of peer-reviewed publications or book chapters in the fields of muscle physiology, cardiovascular disease, cytoskeletal dynamics, membrane repair and cellular calcium homeostasis in normal physiology and disease states. He has chaired sessions at national and international meetings on muscle physiology and metabolism, and been invited to present his research at several international conferences. Additionally, he is an inventor of six published U.S. patent applications and numerous international patent applications. These inventions became the basis for formation of TRIM-edicine, a biotechnology company developing protein therapeutics targeting regenerative medicine applications, where he is a co-founder and chief scientific officer. At TRIM-edicine, located in North Brunswick, N.J., he oversees all developmental programs and manages partnerships with established pharmaceutical companies. He has received a fellowship from the American Heart Association (AHA) and a Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH.

Jason Holt, Ph.D., Kauffman Foundation Emerging Postdoctoral Entrepreneur

Jason K. Holt, Ph.D., is a co-founder and chief technology officer of NanOasis Technologies, Richmond, Calif., a San Francisco Bay Area startup focusing on the development of next-generation, low-energy membranes for seawater desalination. He has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of California at Irvine and a master's degree, and doctorate in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. His doctorate work focused on methods for developing low-cost, thin-film silicon solar cells. After completing his doctoral studies, he joined Intel Corporation as senior process engineer. Eager to rejoin the research community, he left Intel to join Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as a postdoctoral fellow in 2003 and was later promoted to staff scientist in 2006. His research at LLNL focused on nanostructured composite materials for applications in nanofluidics and filtration. This research culminated in an article in Science in 2006 and demonstrated the promise of carbon nanotube materials for high throughput filtration. To explore the commercial applications of this research, he entered the Siemens Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2007 and won first place for his business plan entitled "Carbon Nanotube Membranes for Desalination". This award attracted interest from the venture capital community and led to the founding of NanOasis in the summer of 2008. He is passionate about the development of technologies to solve global issues such as water scarcity and energy independence.


Crystal R. Icenhour, Ph.D., Kauffman Foundation Outstanding Postdoctoral Entrepreneur

Crystal R. Icenhour, Ph.D., currently serves as president and chief science officer for Phthisis Diagnostics, a biotechnology company located in Charlottesville, Va. Phthisis Diagnostics is a research and development company focusing on development of easy-to-use, cost-effective molecular diagnostics for various infectious diseases. These simple diagnostics will focus on diseases of public health importance and will facilitate clinical adoption of modern, accurate diagnostics. Phthisis launched its first product, the E-Sphere® Stool DNA Extraction Kit, in May 2011 after just 18 months of development time. To date, the company has received over $3.5 million in grant funding and angel and Series A investments.

Icenhour received her doctorate in Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine from the University of Cincinnati Medical School of Graduate Studies in 2002. She conducted postdoctoral research in the Thoracic Diseases Research Unit at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine from 2002-2005 and in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Duke University Medical Center from 2005-2006. Icenhour has been involved in local and national postdoctoral associations including serving as president of the Mayo Research Fellows Association Executive Committee, as chair of the membership committee for the Duke University Postdoctoral Association, and as chair of the 2008 NPA Board of Directors.

Elizabeth Iorns, Ph.D., Kauffman Foundation Emerging Postdoctoral Entrepreneur

Elizabeth Iorns, Ph.D., is co-founder and chief executive officer of Science Exchange, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. Science Exchange is an online marketplace for scientific experiments and brings together thousands of core facilities and commercial scientific service providers at one convenient site, By providing project management tools and a cross institutional payment platform, Science Exchange makes it easy for researchers to access the global network of scientific resources and experimental expertise. To date, the company has received over $1.5 million in venture capital and angel investments.

Iorns has a bachelor's degree (Hons) in Biomedical Science from the University of Auckland and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from the Institute of Cancer Research in London. She conducted her postdoctoral research in Cancer Biology at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. Her research has focused on identifying mechanisms of breast cancer development and progression. Based on her own experiences as a young investigator seeking core facility capabilities and collaborations outside her home university, she co-founded Science Exchange in 2011. She has received a range of honors, including the Institute of Cancer Research Chairman's Prize for Best Graduating Ph.D. student, the Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research Young Investigator Award and a Postdoctoral Fellowship Award from the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. She was the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine Nominee for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Future Leaders in Transitional Research Special Symposium.