KUMC researcher wins Baxendale Commercialization Award

Fri, 04/26/2013

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Kevin Boatright
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LAWRENCE – Lisa Stehno-Bittel, professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science in the University of Kansas School of Health Professions, is the 2013 recipient of KU’s Jim Baxendale Commercialization Award, to be presented Tuesday, April 30, in conjunction with the KU Center for Technology Commercialization Innovation Fair, which will be 4 p.m.-6 p.m. in the Kansas Union Ballroom.

Named after KU’s former technology transfer director, the award recognizes a KU faculty member who excels in translational research and research commercialization, i.e., translating academic discoveries into commercially viable products that benefit society. The award was first presented in 2005 to Val Stella, University Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, as the KU Technology Transfer Leadership Award. It was renamed in 2012 and will now be given annually.

Building on her more than 15 years of experience in the area of diabetes research, Stehno-Bittel co-founded Likarda LLC in 2012.  The startup company, located at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center at KU Medical Center, has successfully cured diabetes in laboratory rats by transplanting its engineered cell clusters, known as Kanslets. Eventually, with further testing and development, the clusters could be transplanted in companion animals using a minimally invasive surgical procedure.

According to Stehno-Bittel, she and recent KU bioengineering graduate Karthik Ramachandran “realized that some of the techniques we had been working on for human health had immediate applications to animal health. We had patented an efficient process to create simplified, miniaturized islets, the insulin-producing cells of the body. The new islets produced more insulin and were more likely to survive a transplant procedure.” In addition to her ongoing faculty appointment, as president of Likarda she will oversee the translation of scientific innovations into alternative therapies for chronic conditions common to companion animals.

“Lisa is a gifted researcher whose efforts have great commercial potential,” said Julie Goonewardene, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship. “This award from the KU Center for Technology Commercialization recognizes what she’s accomplished so far. It reflects KU’s commitment to the people of Kansas by moving life-saving technologies to the market, and is also an encouragement to other KU researchers to follow her successful example.”

In November 2012, Likarda was named one of the world’s 50 most promising new companies in the Global Entrepreneurship Week Startup Open.  Likarda was one of nearly 400 applicants from 17 countries, and the only Kansas City area company to make the list. Company co-founder Ramachandran, who received a doctorate at KU in 2012, was a graduate research assistant and post-doctoral fellow for five years in Stehno-Bittel’s Diabetes Research Lab at KU Medical Center.

Stehno-Bittel joined the KU faculty in 1995, following a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Mayo School of Medicine. Her academic background includes a B.S. in physical therapy from KU and a doctorate in physiology from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

More information about the KU Center for Technology Commercialization.

More information about the KUCTC Innovation Fair.



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