UGA innovators and entrepreneurs share successes

By: Amy Ware

“As an inventor, you should have no secrets,” according to Wayne Hanna, inventor of numerous citrus and grass cultivars including TifTuf® bermudagrass. “You want to tell as many people as you can about your product. It is important to educate your colleagues, including the folks at Innovation Gateway, and industry partners. They need to know how your product works and why it is better than the competitor’s. These are the people who will know how your product fits into the market and who are going to help you reach your customers.”

Hanna spoke to faculty, students and members of the community April 24 at a panel discussion called Success Stories: Turning UGA Research into Products, held at Ciné in downtown Athens.

University entrepreneurs and inventors shared how their ideas and inventions reached the market, their lessons learned along the way and the importance of leveraging resources like the Innovation Gateway teams’ expertise and guidance.

In addition to Hanna, the panel included Marc van Iersel and Erico Mattos, co-founders of Candidus, Inc., a startup developing cost-effective lighting control for greenhouses; Tom Robertson, CEO and co-founder Cogent Education, a startup recently acquired by Cambium Learning Group; and Holly Sellers, inventor of several poultry vaccines that help safeguard Georgia’s $28 billion poultry industry.

Mattos, a recent graduate of UGA’s I-Corps six-week accelerator program, said that Innovation Gateway was vital to his success. “Innovation Gateway helps you take an idea and find an application for it. They show you how to develop a business plan, set up an office and go after funding,” he said.

It is equally valuable to understand when not to pursue a venture, according to Mattos. In 2012, he completed the Kauffman FastTrac program which helped him realize one of his ideas wouldn’t work for a startup. “It’s difficult to let go of an idea that you are passionate about, but if you don’t, you’re dead in the water.”

Sellers, professor in the Department of Pathology, was approached by industry to develop a poultry vaccine for infectious bronchitis virus, a highly contagious disease affecting chickens. “Collaborating with Innovation Gateway and finding funding allowed me to develop this new vaccine, which was licensed by Zoetis and Ceva,” she said.

“We hope that members of the audience will be inspired to pursue their own ventures after hearing the success stories of the panelists,” said, Derek Eberhart, director of Innovation Gateway. “We will host another series again beginning in fall 2018 to promote these types of conversations in the community and to look for future collaborators.”

This was the fourth and final event in Innovation Gateway’s annual technology transfer educational series called Bridging the Gap Between Academia and Industry. The series highlighted how researchers can partner with Innovation Gateway to maximize the impact of UGA research discoveries and foster economic development.

As the university’s licensing and startup arm, Innovation Gateway fosters a network of industry, economic development, and university partners to develop new products and companies based on university research. To date, Innovation Gateway has brought nearly 700 products to the market and launched over 160 companies.