UNM Rainforest Innovations

2021 Virtual Innovation Awards

UNM Rainforest Innovations’ annual Innovation Awards recognizes the accomplishments of UNM inventors who have received issued U.S. patents, trademarks, and registered copyrights within the past year. Between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021, 48 UNM inventors received issued U.S. patents for 50 technologies. Of those patents, 33 were for technologies developed on main campus and 17 were for technologies developed on the health sciences campus.

Inventor Honorees

The following UNM faculty, staff, and students run the gamut from first-time inventors to experienced inventors and include UNM professors, research professors, distinguished and Regents’ professors, professors emeriti, and postdoctoral students. The inventors represent departments and research/clinical centers across the main and health sciences campuses that reflect a strong level of collaboration. Several inventors are being honored for multiple issued patents.

Victor Acosta, Ph.D. Fernando Moreu, Ph.D., P.E.
Plamen B. Atanassov, Ph.D. Melanie E. Moses, Ph.D.
Mahmoud Behzadirad, Ph.D. Abdullah Mueen, Ph.D.
Cristian G. Bologa, Ph.D. Aaron Neumann, Ph.D.
C. Jeffrey Brinker, Ph.D. Tudor Oprea, M.D., Ph.D.
Steven R.J. Brueck, Ph.D. Marek A. Osiński, Ph.D.
Tito Busani, Ph.D. Rong Pan, Ph.D.
Eliseo F. Castillo, Ph.D. Marios Pattichis, Ph.D.
Francesca Cavallo, Ph.D. David S. Peabody, Ph.D.
Bryce C. Chackerian, Ph.D. Mostafa Peysokhan, Ph.D.
Seth Daly, Ph.D. Jim Plusquellic, Ph.D.
Vojo P. Deretic, Ph.D. Eric Prossnitz, Ph.D.
Bruce S. Edwards, Ph.D. Rita Serda, Ph.D.
Daniel Feezell, Ph.D. Andrew P. Shreve, Ph.D.
Steven W. Graves, Ph.D. Laurel O. Sillerud, Ph.D.
Pamela Hall, Ph.D. Larry A. Sklar, Ph.D.
Sang Eon Han, Ph.D. Gennady Smolyakov, Ph.D.
Laurie Hudson, Ph.D. Rina Sylejmani, M.S.
Linnea K. Ista, Ph.D. Mahmoud Taha, Ph.D.
Seung-Chang Lee, Ph.D. Graham Timmins, Ph.D.
Ke Jian (Jim) Liu, Ph.D. Kathleen D. Triplett, B.S., B.A.
Shuang (Sean) Luan, Ph.D. Angela Wandinger-Ness, Ph.D.
Arash Mafi, Ph.D. David G. Whitten, Ph.D.
Payman Zarkesh-Ha, Ph.D

2021 Rainforest Innovation Fellow

The UNM Rainforest Innovations Board of Directors is honored to present the 2021 Rainforest Innovation Fellow Award to Dr. Eric Prossnitz. This award was created in 2010 to honor annually a University of New Mexico inventor whose body of technologies has generated significant commercialization activities. Based on achievements in new technologies disclosed, patents received, license and option agreements entered into, new companies started, and income generated from these technologies, the UNM Rainforest Innovation Fellow Selection Committee evaluates and selects an Innovation Fellow.

Curious by nature, Eric Prossnitz was drawn to a scientific research career which then led him down a path of translating laboratory discoveries into new therapies for patients. With this new goal, backed by an understanding of cellular functions at the molecular level to disease mechanisms at the organismal level, Dr. Prossnitz and his team have identified new drugs that are currently in clinical trials for cancer patients. He also leads an energetic research team of students, fellows, staff and faculty focused on cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic disease with an underlying focus on drug discovery and development. After centering his early studies of chemotactic immune receptor function, Dr. Prossnitz shifted his research focus to understanding the actions of estrogen through a novel receptor, G protein-coupled estrogen receptor. For nearly 18 years, his work has employed pharmacological and genetic approaches to understand this receptor’s roles in health and disease.

Dr. Prossnitz received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989, and carried out postdoctoral training at the Scripps Clinic and Research Institute, where he received his first faculty appointment in 1994. In 1997, Dr. Prossnitz was recruited to the faculty of the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Center and in 2015 the Department of Internal Medicine. He has been a program leader at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center since 2008, a module lead in the UNM Clinical and Translational Science Center since 2010 and Chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine since 2018. He has also led components of the New Mexico INBRE and Mountain West Clinical & Translational Research Infrastructure Network (MW CTR-IN), serves as the Associate Director of the Autophagy, Inflammation and Metabolism Center (AIM CoBRE), and is the Academic Lead for the ASCEND Accelerator Hub that promotes entrepreneurship and commercialization of university basic and translational science the seven western IDeA states.

2020 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

This year, UNM Rainforest Innovations also honors a UNM Inventor elected as 2020 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors: Dr. Larry Sklar, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at the University of New Mexico.

Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.

For over thirty years, Dr. Sklar has dedicated himself as an inventor to making high-throughput flow cytometry the benchmark for flow cytometry technology. For nearly as long as director of the Center for Molecular Discovery, he has made New Mexico internationally known as a hub for flow cytometry research and technologies. He has given a tool to researchers everywhere to discover more effective ways to understand and treat cancers, infectious diseases and many other biological applications, and built multiple teams of inventors and innovators along the way that are reflected in his patent portfolio and commercialization activity.


Congratulations again to our inventor honorees, Rainforest Innovation Fellow, and NAI Fellow! Read more about this year’s honorees in the Innovation Awards program below.


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