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UNM Rainforest Innovations Celebrates 25th Anniversary

On November 18, UNM Rainforest Innovations (formerly STC.UNM) celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a virtual celebration via Zoom. Over 80 guests attended the event to celebrate this milestone year and also honor the 2020 Rainforest Innovation Fellow Dr. David G. Whitten. The event began with opening remarks from the UNM Rainforest Innovations (UNM RI) Board Chair Sandra Begay followed by remarks from the University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes.

UNM RI was first created as a nonprofit corporation in 1995 by the University of New Mexico Board of Regents to commercialize university inventions. Over the past 25 years, UNM RI has grown substantially. They work to protect and commercialize technologies developed at UNM by filing patents and copyrights and transferring them to the marketplace. They connect the business community (companies, entrepreneurs and investors) to these UNM technologies for licensing opportunities and the creation of start-up companies.

Beginning in 2013, UNM RI began implementing the university’s economic development initiatives. With the guidance and input from the UNM Rainforest Forum and the UNM Economic Development Council, they support economic development through innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.

Earlier this year, UNM RI announced that the 2020 Rainforest Innovation Fellow was Dr. David G. Whitten, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering and Associate Director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Whitten provided a speech on his background as an inventor and the technologies he has developed.

In 2010, the UNM RI Board of Directors created the Rainforest Innovation Fellow Award to honor a University of New Mexico inventor whose body of technologies have generated significant commercialization activities. Rainforest Innovation Fellows are chosen by the UNM RI Fellow Board Committee based on achievements in new technologies disclosed, patents received, license and option agreements entered into, new companies started, and also income generated from these technologies.

Dr. Whitten has excelled as an inventor at the University of New Mexico, disclosing 34 technologies and has received 17 issued patents. Motivated by a desire to find a better method for disinfection, Dr. Whitten and his students and collaborators have developed novel antimicrobial polymers and oligomers, and conjugated polyelectrolytes that have unique properties as antimicrobials (killing bacteria, viruses, fungi and biofilms in dark- and light- activated processes). Dr. Whitten’s research focuses on the mechanisms by which these compounds are active and on several potential applications based on their antimicrobial properties.

The event wrapped up with closing remarks from longtime UNM RI board member Gregg Mayer and a slideshow documenting UNM RI’s journey.

UNM RI also made a donation to the Lobo Food Pantry at the University of New Mexico in the amount of $500. This provides free groceries to students, employees, and the greater UNM community.

Below you can view a recording of the event.