Innovation Prizes Presented at Virtual Entrepreneurs Forum

Annual prize honors Thayer's Gerngross and Geisel's Sporn.

At this fall's Entrepreneurs Forum, the Dartmouth Technology Innovation and Commercialization awards were presented to engineering professor and biotechnology entrepreneur Tillman Gerngross and research physician Michael Sporn, emeritus professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Geisel School of Medicine.

Eric Fossum, associate provost for entrepreneurship and technology transfer, highlighted Gerngross and Sporn as examples of innovators who are dedicated to improving human health.

"Our awards highlight individuals who, through their inventive and entrepreneurial talents, have made strong contributions to Dartmouth and society," Fossum said. "Honestly, it was an easy choice in selecting Tillman and Michael. I am amazed by their energy, productivity, and success, and I am proud to have them as colleagues at Dartmouth."

Traditionally, the Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum has been a one-day event held each fall in San Francisco, but due to the pandemic, the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship shifted to a virtual forum featuring 25 online events spread over the month of September. The all-online month of events attracted more than 1,000 registrants and included 138 alumni contributors. The roster of speakers and attendees came from across the country and from more than 21 countries.

Gerngross has founded many companies in the medical field, most recently Adagio Therapeutics, which is beginning clinical trials of antibodies engineered to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sporn leads a biomedical research laboratory that has done research leading to the development of important therapeutic drugs. Most recently, Sporn co-founded a new company, Triterpenoid Therapeutics, which is planning to start clinical trials with a new generation of compounds for the treatment of cancer.

"Dartmouth has been a wonderful place to pursue my long-term goals of applying basic science for human benefit, especially to finding new ways to prevent and treat diseases that are presently incurable," Sporn says.

Although this year's virtual forum was a departure from the annual San Francisco gathering, the center's quick pivot to all-online gatherings opened some new possibilities, says Jamie Coughlin, director of the Magnuson Center.

"The silver lining to this year's entrepreneurs forum was that all the participants—alumni entrepreneurs, industry innovators, venture capitalists, students, faculty, startup founders—could participate and engage from all over the globe without any restrictions," Coughlin says. "When things return to normal, I'm sure we will integrate some elements of this experience into the live event."

For the latest information on Dartmouth's response to the pandemic visit the COVID-19 website.

William Platt can be reached at william.c.platt@dartmouth.edu.