August 2015 News Wrap-up from the Georgia Research Alliance

Solar innovator Suniva to add hundreds of jobs

Georgia-based Suniva, which received GRA Ventures investment early in its development, is set for a major expansion that will generate as many as 500 new jobs at its manufacturing facility in Norcross, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports. Launched out of Georgia Tech, Suniva makes solar cells that have higher efficiency than typical solar technology. Suniva's solar cells stem from the groundbreaking work of GRA Eminent Scholar Ajeet Rohatgi, a former fellow at the Westinghouse Research and Development Center in Pittsburgh and one of the world's leading innovators of solar technology. • Read the article >

A record year of recruitment

Georgia became the new research home for eight world-class scientists in FY15 — the largest class of GRA Eminent Scholars recruited to the state's universities in over a decade.

The Scholars, whose research ranges from molecular medicine to energy management technologies, are occupying endowed chairs at Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and The University of Georgia. They arrived with $27 million in federal funding for their research.

“We are proud to partner with our outstanding research universities to attract these exceptional scientists who are choosing to move their labs and teams to Georgia for a unique opportunity,” said Doug Hertz, President and CEO of United Distributors and GRA Board Chair. “We are providing them with the tools and infrastructure to develop solutions for problems that are facing our world.”

The Academy of GRA Eminent Scholars, which now numbers 63, anchors the Alliance's strategy for expanding research capacity and driving economic growth. Beyond bringing significant research funding to Georgia — more than $300 million in 2014 alone — the Scholars often propel the launch of new companies around their inventions and discoveries.

“By hosting these brilliant scientists, we help grow Georgia’s economy and further enhance its reputation as a cutting-edge place to do business and create high-wage jobs," said Hank Huckaby, Chancellor of the University System of Georgia. 

In recruiting GRA Eminent Scholars to Georgia, GRA partners with the universities, who provide matching funds for the endowed chairs. It's an extensive, thorough recruitment process: On average, it takes about six months from the time a candidate is approached until he or she accepts.

Axion officials make appearance on radio podcast 

Axion BioSystems took its fascinating technology to the airwaves in August as President and CEO Tom O'Brien and Chief Technology Officer Jim Ross were the featured guests on CEO Exclusive Radio. They discussed how their sensor-lined petri dish (and associated platform) collects and analyzes heartbeats and brain activity faster and more accurately than testing animal models. The Axion system allows potential drugs to be tested for toxicity and efficacy much earlier in the development process. The executives credited GRA for its support in the company's early days.  • Listen to the interview >

AKESOgen makes Inc. 500 list of fast-growing cos.

Genomics service provider AKESOgen, a GRA Ventures company, joins major brands Fitbit, Radio Flyer and Smashburger on Inc. Magazine's list of the nation's 500 fastest-growing private companies. The list, released in August, places AKESOgen at number 363, though it ranks 44th among healthcare companies. "To make it among the top 500 companies, honorees had to have grown at least tenfold over the past three years," said Inc. President Eric Schurenberg. AKESOgen establishes and validates biomarkers for pharmaceutical clinical trials and provides expertise in biobanking. • More >

Nair's discovery spotlighted in new GRA video

It’s been called “the point of no return” – the precise moment that an enzyme from HIV inserts itself into human DNA. When it happens, it's game over, and the body becomes infected. But GRA Eminent Scholar Vasu Nair discovered a way to arrest this enzyme, called HIV integrase, before it invades DNA. The University of Georgia scientist developed a small-molecule drug that binds itself to a different part of the HIV integrase enzyme, effectively blocking it – and the drug doesn't appear to carry the side effects of other similar drugs. • Watch GRA's 'Breakthrough' video on Dr. Nair >
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