UNM Rainforest Innovations

On April 26, UNM Rainforest Innovations hosted its twentieth annual Innovation Awards to recognize the accomplishments of University of New Mexico (UNM) inventors who have received issued U.S. patents, registered trademarks, and copyrights within the past year.

Between March 1, 2022, and February 28, 2023, 42 UNM inventors received 48 issued U.S. patents. There were 33 U.S. patents for technologies developed on UNM main campus, 11 patents developed on the health sciences campus and 4 patents that were a collaboration between UNM main campus and health sciences.

The keynote speaker was Suman Lal, PhD, who is the Co-Founder of NeuroChronix, which is a startup tackling chronic pain by developing novel, non-opioid therapeutics. He is also the Founder of Zero-to-One, a life sciences commercialization company focused on accelerating innovations that can lead to cures for patients. Additional startups include DeckTherapeutics, Mirakel Technologies and Scientific Innovations.

Other speakers at the event included Sandra Begay, Chair of the UNM Rainforest Innovations Board of Directors; Garnett Stokes, PhD, President of the University of New Mexico; Hengamey Raissy, PharmD, Interim Vice President of Research for UNM Health Sciences Center; Ellen Fisher, PhD, Vice President of Research for UNM main campus; and Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer for UNM Rainforest Innovations.

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. These 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.

2023 Rainforest Innovation Fellow – Dr. Karin Westlund High

Relieving chronic pain and understanding the complex mechanisms of the pain system have been at the forefront of Dr. Karin Westlund High’s research activities. Her work to find effective, non-opioid therapeutics is on the path to being realized: a life goal she never thought she would be able to reach.

Her research fights against the devastating effects and social consequences of opioid addiction and dependence around the world and right here in New Mexico. Effective non-opiate therapeutics are finally on the horizon, as well as other pharmacologics, to treat opioid addiction and provide better outcomes for those suffering with chronic pain. Dr. Karin Westlund High’s studies have been continuously funded and have appeared in 182 published manuscripts and cited 11,674 times (H-Index 63). These studies were done with the assistance of six graduate PhD students; 15 postdoctoral, resident, medical and dental fellows; senior scientists; and collaborators. She has provided numerous contributions to the education of graduate, medical, and dental students, primarily through medical and dental neuroscience courses.

Karin is among the earliest members of the American Pain Society, the U.S. chapter of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), which is dedicated to advancing multidisciplinary pain care, education, advocacy, and research to improve people’s quality of life. Since 2005, she has served as Associate Editor for the Pharmacology section of the IASP professional journal Pain and in 2008 she won the IASP Fred Kerr Career Research Award.

She received her PhD in physiology and biophysics from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas. Karin is a distinguished professor and the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine, and is a Research Physiologist at the New Mexico VA Health Care System in Albuquerque.


We would like to thank the sponsors of the evening’s event. These sponsorships make it possible for UNM Rainforest Innovations to award financial stipends to the inventors being honored. The sponsors included The Shore Firm; Susman Godfrey, LLP; Valauskas Corder, LLC; Vogt IP; CoSud Intellectual Property Solutions, PC; MH2 Technology Law Group; Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, PA; and Mueting Raasch Group.

Link to official program: 2023 Innovation Awards Program

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