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UNC faculty honored for achievements in innovation

The University honored its faculty working on the front lines of their fields Thursday night, celebrating their achievements in the context of UNC’s recent focus on innovation.

The Carolina Innovations Seminar honored faculty who have been issued patents and developed technologies in the past year.

Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost, was one of the first speakers to recognize the efforts of the inventors and stressed the importance of innovation at the University.

“It’s spring, pollen is falling, and awards are starting to fall into people’s hands,” he said.

“Inventorship is something I like to see, and our administration tries to work closely with inventors.”

The career of Darrel Stafford, a biology professor, was in the spotlight for winning “Inventor of the Year” from the Office of Technology Development.

“This is our inaugural award of ‘Inventor of the Year,’ and we really wanted to do something special for someone who’s been a great asset to innovation at UNC,” said Ann Byassee, business manager of the office.

Stafford achieved three separate patents this year alone.

His list of accolades is lengthy, as he has worked in labs across the world and has made major strides in molecular biology through his discoveries.

“Well, I have had over 70 patents issued in my lifetime,” he said.
Stafford’s presentation had many audience members shifting in their seats, as his experience and work in the field of biology began decades ago.

He described how innovation shaped his life, and said he and his colleagues had managed to isolate gene coding for histone proteins, purify carboxylase and clone it, as well as make many more scientific breakthroughs — and it all started with testing sea urchins with his friends in Bermuda.

“This gave us a less complicated way to purify genes,” he said with a shrug.

He ended his presentation with a little advice to future innovators.
“A little money goes a long way,” he said. “But sometimes you miss opportunities. If you don’t protect what you do, somebody will try to steal it.”

“Then again, what I learned is even if you do protect it, people try to steal it,” he added.

Each recipient received a plaque for his or her accomplishments.
Barbara Entwisle, vice chancellor for research, said innovation has been promoted since the introduction of Innovate@Carolina, the University’s $125 million project focused on enhancing entrepreneurship.

“UNC takes great pride in our inventors, and we want you to know we really appreciate all you are doing,” she said.

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