U.Va. Start-Ups, Alum Honored at Charlottesville Innovation Awards

June 09, 2010

June 9, 2010 — University of Virginia start-up companies ContraVac Inc. and Teachstone and alumnus Robert S. Capon were honored last week by the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council.

The Charlottesville Innovation Awards, given at a gala event at Farmington Country Club, commend individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions over the last year to the local community and economy by advancing technology and innovation.

ContraVac received the Breakthrough Award, which is given to businesses or individuals who translate basic discoveries into huge advancements. Founded on technology developed by John C. Herr and collaborators at U.Va., ContraVac offers a family of "SpermCheck" at-home tests to inform men of their fertility status in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Using a platform similar to a home pregnancy test, these immunodiagnostic tests measure the amount of sperm-specific biomarker SP-10, discovered in Herr's lab, present in a semen sample to measure a man's fertility, in accordance with World Health Organization standards.

ContraVac was one of three U.Va. start-ups to be named finalists for the award. Global Cell Solutions Inc. was founded by Robin A. Felder, professor of pathology and associate director of clinical chemistry and toxicology at U.Va. HemoShear LLC was founded by Brett R. Blackman, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and Brian R. Wamhoff, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine and biomedical engineering.

Teachstone received the Rocket Award, which honors an enterprise that has moved with noteworthy speed from concept to commercialization. Teachstone builds on research-based teaching and learning tools and makes them available to education professionals in the field with the goal of improving both teacher performance and student results.

Teachstone's work currently centers around the CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System), a highly acclaimed and proven observational tool that focuses on improving the quality of classroom interactions as a way to improve teacher performance and student learning. The tool was developed by Robert C. Pianta, dean of the U.Va. Curry School of Education; Bridget K. Hamre, associate director of Curry's Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning; and colleagues.

In addition, Teachstone's professional development programs include informational introductions to CLASS concepts, video-based interactive tools that allow users to connect to the organization's video library and "My Teaching Partner," a 10-month personalized program in which Teachstone professionals consult with teachers to help them learn and utilize CLASS principles.

Capon earned the Spotlight Award for bringing positive press and attention to the area. Capon, who graduated in 1980 from the School of Engineering and Applied Science's mechanical engineering program and earned an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School, is co-founder and former CEO of Adenosine Therapeutics LLC, a world leader in adenosine drug discovery and development.

Founded with the technology of Joel M. Linden, Timothy L. Macdonald and nine additional U.Va. researchers, the company has developed drug compounds with the potential to treat a variety of serious illnesses, including cardiac disease, asthma, diabetes, glaucoma and multiple myeloma. Adenosine Therapeutics was acquired by publicly traded global biotechnology company Clinical Data Inc. in August 2008.

Capon is also an adjunct faculty member of the Darden School of Business, where he teaches "Transactions and Deal-Making in the Life Sciences."

W. Mark Crowell, who recently joined U.Va. as executive director and associate vice president for innovation partnerships and commercialization, lauded the CBIC for holding an event celebrating and rewarding entrepreneurship. "Translating academic discoveries into successful ventures and products is a focal point of U.Va.'s innovation agenda, and we look forward to sharing more success stories as we expand our innovation and translational research initiatives," he said.

Miette H. Michie, executive director and CEO of the U.Va. Patent Foundation, congratulated the winners and added, "We at the patent foundation are so pleased to be a part of Charlottesville's active and dynamic technology community and to see our U.Va. start-ups and colleagues recognized for their achievements in innovation and entrepreneurship."

A list of all the finalists is available on the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council Web site.