GREENSBORO – Some of the Piedmont Triad region’s most successful individuals and organizations working in the biosciences have been honored with Excellence Awards.

The awards were given at Triad BioNight, a celebration of the region’s life science sector organized by the Piedmont Triad Office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. More than 300 people attended the networking and awards event June 20 at the Grandover Resort and Conference Center in Greensboro.

The honorees are:

Triad BioNight

Yonnie Butler

Yonnie D. Butler, executive director of the Biotechnology Center of Excellence at Alamance Community College (ACC). Butler received the Biotechnology Community Leadership Excellence award. A native of the Piedmont Triad, Butler has spent most of his 35-year bioscience career in the region, working in industry, academia and the nonprofit sector. Currently he works with nine academic programs at ACC, all connected to the school’s longstanding Biotechnology and Medical Laboratory Technology programs. Previously he helped Wake Forest Innovations build a new team to capitalize on the university’s entrepreneurial resources and helped Duke University develop a new global master’s degree program. At the North Carolina Biotechnology Center he guided investments in numerous early-stage and start-up life science companies. Butler began his career at LabCorp (then known as Roche Biomedical Labs) in Burlington.

Jennifer Byrne

Jennifer Byrne, chief executive officer and board chair of Javara, an Integrated Research Organization (IRO) in Winston-Salem that offers comprehensive clinical research services to better align population health initiatives across healthcare systems. Byrne received the Entrepreneurial Excellence award. Her involvement in clinical research has included collaborations with hundreds of pharmaceutical, medical device, Contract Research Organizations (CROs), technology, site organizations, and other research service providers. She currently serves as board chair for Greater Gift, a member of the board of trustees for the Association of Clinical Research Professionals, and vice chair for Summit School’s board of trustees. Additionally, she is an advisory board member to the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation, the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Dioko Ventures, and the Advisory Committee for Biotechnology in the Piedmont Triad.

Ken Russell

Kenneth Russell, director of medical device development at Wake Forest Innovations in the Wake Forest School of Medicine. Russell received the Biotechnology Service/Support Excellence award. At Wake Forest Innovations Russell established a medical device accelerator that provides idea refinement, engineering services, competitive analyses, intellectual property preparation and prototype design and testing for Wake Forest inventors and their collaborators. Previously he was director of product development at Dow Corning Wright, where he oversaw the development and commercialization of new orthopedic products. He then organized a new orthopedics company, Spinal Innovations, that was sold to Aesculap, a division of B. Braun Medical. After Spinal Innovations, he began his academic career at the Vanderbilt Heart Institute.

Russ Read

Russ H. Read, executive director of the Winston-Salem-based National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce, which focuses on achieving best practices for bioscience workforce training with its national partners. Read received the Academic Development Excellence award. He has worked in the bioscience industry for over 35 years. Most recently he has been project director or principal investigator for major bioscience workforce training projects. Formerly he was an executive with the Burroughs Wellcome and Glaxo Wellcome companies, where he was involved with the commercial development of antivirals including AZT and 3TC, which are mainstay treatments for HIV illness. He was chief executive officer of Kucera Pharmaceutical Company, a start-up company based in Winston-Salem. He is a past chair and current member of the Advisory Committee for Biotechnology in the Piedmont Triad and a director of the N.C. Biosciences Organization, a statewide trade association.

Body-On-A-Chip device

Body-on-a-Chip device. (Wake Forest University photo)

The “Body-on-a-Chip” team at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, including  Anthony Atala, M.D., Colin Bishop, Ph.D., Adam Hall, Ph.D., John Jackson, Ph.D., Sang Jin Lee, Ph.D., Sean Murphy, Ph.D., Tom Shupe, Ph.D., Aleks Skardal, Ph.D., Shay Soker, Ph.D., and James Yoo, M.D., Ph.D. The team received the Research and Development Excellence award.

The team was selected in 2013 to lead a $20 million, multi-institution “Body-on-a-Chip” program funded by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The goal was to build a miniaturized system of multi human organs to model the body’s response to chemical and biological weapons and develop potential therapies and new antidotes. These micro organs, or organoids, are housed separately in small micro-reactors, and connected by a microtube network that can feed them.

The system enables researchers to circulate candidate drugs, vaccines or biologic agents or therapies between the different organs, as it would do in humans, and predict whether they are safe, effective or toxic. The Body-on-a-Chip platform can accelerate the translation of basic scientific discoveries into the clinic, faster and more accurately than in laboratory animals.

“These awards recognize the accomplishments of important contributors in the Piedmont Triad as we work to support life sciences growth and opportunity for North Carolina and this region,” said Nancy Johnston, executive director of NCBiotech’s Piedmont Triad office.

Triad BioNight 2019 was the seventh edition of the Excellence Awards banquet since the inaugural event in 2005.

This year’s honorees were chosen by a 12-member awards committee after nominations were solicited from the Triad region’s bioscience community.

2019 Triad BioNight Awards Committee

Awards Chair: Amanda Wright, vice president of partnership development, Javara Research, and executive director, Greater Gift
Connie Cwik, RAC, owner, Cwik Business Connections
Stephanie Dance-Barnes, Ph.D., interim associate provost and dean, University College and Lifelong Learning, and associate professor of biology, Winston-Salem State University
Gary Graham, president, Graham Personnel Services
Pattie Kushner, vice president of global corporate communications and brand, LabCorp
Kim Littlefield, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for research and engagement, UNC Greensboro
Crystal Morphis, CEcD, founder and CEO, Creative Economic Development Consulting
Shelley Olds, senior manager, communications and community engagement, Syngenta
James Patterson, director, marketing & communications, Wake Forest Innovations & Wake Forest Innovation Quarter
Russ Read, CPP (LERN), executive director, National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce at Forsyth Tech, Winston-Salem
Malay Shah, MBA, director, VentureSouth, Piedmont Triad
Daniel Yohannes, Ph.D., MBA, Yohannes Life Science Consulting, LLC

(C) N.C. Biotech Center