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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

Celebrate Invention Highlights U-M Innovators, Recognizes Record-Breaking Year


On September 14, Innovation Partnerships hosted more than 300 attendees at its annual Celebrate Invention event. Members of the University of Michigan community and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem gathered together at the Michigan Union to honor campus innovators and the societal impact of their discoveries.

Eight people stand on stage, cheering. Five people are holding awards labeled "Distinguished University Innovator of the Year".

The 2023 Distinguished University Innovator of the Year award recipients, the Histotripsy Team, celebrate with Kelly Sexton, Dr. Rebecca Cunningham and U-M president Dr. Santa J. Ono.

The event kicked off at 3 p.m. with the Distinguished University Innovator Award panel and presentation. This year’s award recipient was the histotripsy team, led by Zhen Xu, Timothy Hall, Jonathan Sukovich, J. Brian Fowlkes and William Woodruff Roberts from Michigan Engineering and Michigan Medicine. Xu, professor of biomedical engineering and lead investigator for the team, presented on histotripsy, the team’s research and how they came to discover and develop the promising technology. Histotripsy holds promise to permit patients with diseased tissue, such as cancerous tumors, to obtain treatment with less discomfort and faster recovery times than traditional surgery.

After Xu’s presentation, Innovation Partnerships convened a panel discussion titled “Histotripsy: Non-invasive Cancer Treatment From Discovery to the Clinic.” Moderated by Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research and innovation partnerships, the panel included Jim Adox, executive managing director, Venture Investors and chairman of the Board of Directors, HistoSonics; Vikas Gulani, Fred Jenner Hodges professor of radiology, chair, department of radiology, professor of radiology, Michigan Medicine; Ganesh Palapattu, department chair, George F. and Sandra G. Valassis professor of urology, Michigan Medicine; and Zhen Xu.

Following the panel, doors opened for the Celebrate Invention networking reception and technology demonstrations. Welcome remarks were provided by President Santa J. Ono, with remarks by Sexton and Vice President for Research Rebecca Cunningham, who presented the Distinguished University Innovator Award to the histotripsy team.

Four people observe and discuss a piece of technology at a booth

Attendees gathered in the Rogel Ballroom for technology demonstrations from eight different U-M innovators.

“The Innovation Partnerships team recently closed a record-breaking year, and I am pleased and honored to share with you their 2023 impact metrics,” President Ono said. 

“Their commitment to excellence and impact led to 580 invention disclosures and 25 new startups launched in fiscal year 2023. These are some of the highest numbers we’ve ever seen. Please join me in congratulating the Innovation Partnerships team and the U-M community of innovators on this outstanding performance.”

Upon concluding their remarks, President Ono and VPR Cunningham joined attendees in touring the room, where eight dynamic U-M startups and technologies showcased their work. The projects and startups included:

    • Grasp Robotics, prosthetic hand hardware that can match the capabilities of the human hand using non-invasive surface electromyography control strategies
    • HistoSonics, an image-guided histotripsy system using ultrasound to excise and mechanically disrupt target tissue
    • I-Gym, an augmented reality game system providing an inclusive and accessible play environment for children
    • Model Performance Diagnostics, a suite of tools that assess the performance of predictive models in a clinical setting
    • Pathways GI, an advanced image analysis application for the automated evaluation of colonoscopy videos
    • Robotic 3D Printing in Architecture and Construction, novel robotic 3D printing technologies using a wide range of materials that aim to minimize waste and increase productivity in the construction industry
    • TRAILS, a clinical mental-health training program for school professionals
    • Zakuro, a solid-state separator technology designed to provide more efficient and safer battery technology than lithium ion