Awards Honor Leaders in Piedmont Triad Biosciences

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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 sciences community organized by the Piedmont Triad Office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Close to 400 people attended the networking and awards event June 23 at the Qubein Arena and Conference Center at High Point University in High Point.

The recipients were chosen by a 12-member independent awards committee after nominations were solicited from the Triad region’s bioscience community.

The following individuals and organizations won awards.

Academic Development Excellence Award

Terry G. Howerton of Atkins Academic & Technology High School in Winston-Salem received the Academic Development Excellence Award. Howerton is a veteran teacher of 30 years and leads Atkins’ biotechnology program. During his 17 years at the magnet STEM school, he has introduced biotechnology to middle school students through summer camps, recruited students into his high school courses and inspired students to further study biosciences in colleges and universities throughout the state and across the country. He received his MS degree from Wake Forest University and is a national board-certified teacher in adolescent/young adult science. He continues to learn as much as he can about the needs of the biosciences sector so he can bring it back to his classrooms and help develop the skills of his students. His goal is not to just teach science, but to teach students how to be scientists.

Biotechnology Community Leadership Excellence Award

Nancy V. Johnston of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center received the Biotechnology Community Leadership Excellence Award. Johnston joined the Biotechnology Center in May 2010 as executive director of the Piedmont Triad office, established in 2003 as the first of six statewide locations. She was recognized for being known as an effective and results-driven community collaborator and communicator; a trusted connector in the entrepreneurial startup community; and an advisor on talent and workforce development. She brings more than 15 years of experience in life sciences technology economic development, business growth strategy, marketing communications and research park experience to her role. Johnston works to engage and educate community leaders about short- and long-term societal and economic benefits of strengthening biotechnology in the 12-county region. 

Biotechnology Support/Service Excellence Award

The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering’s Institute for Research Technologies (JSIRT) received the Biotechnology Support/Service Excellence Award. JSIRT was established in 2019 at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, an academic collaboration between North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Its purpose is to serve as a one-stop location to support research and development in biotechnology, materials science and engineering research through state-of-the-art facilities. With a highly experienced staff and newly acquired equipment, the facility provides services to support the Triad’s biotechnology sector and beyond. In the last year, with grants led by JSNN’s faculty, JSIRT has acquired federal funding from the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation to acquire high-resolution microscopes, x-ray-based equipment and spectroscopic analytical instruments to support biomaterials research. JSIRT is a partner site of the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor, an NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure user facility.

Entrepreneurial Excellence Award

Jerry Barker and Doug Drabble of Novex Innovations in Winston-Salem jointly received the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.

As founder and president, Barker is involved in all aspects of the organization. An entrepreneur with years of experience launching and managing successful startups, he is recognized for his integrity and strong strategic and tactical leadership. During his career, he has gained over 20 years of biologics laboratory experience and technical expertise. He has deep and varied experience in medical device design, development and commercialization. His expertise spans strategy, commercialization, business development and market access.

As chief operating officer, Drabble leads a team of multidisciplinary scientists and professionals supporting the development, production, manufacturing, and commercialization services that Novex provides to its customers. Drabble is recognized for over 30 years of global pharmaceutical and industrial work experience and consulting in research, process development, scale-up manufacturing, commercial manufacturing, quality assurance, regulatory pathways and engineering. He is responsible for ensuring customer goals become a reality with the delivery of innovative solutions in patient care.

Research and Development Excellence Award

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (WFIRM) NASA Vascular Team at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine received the Research and Development Excellence Award. WFIRM participated in the NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge, which aimed to develop tissues with artificial blood vessels that could remain alive outside the body for at least 30 days, an important goal for space travel. The team used different 3D printed designs and materials to create the tissue structures. There were over 20 international teams, and only two teams achieved the challenge goals. Both teams were from WFIRM, and they received first and second place. The research will help inform future efforts to vascularize tissue for human clinical use while also potentially accelerating pharmaceutical testing and disease modeling. Related to space research, the tissue models can also be used to study how radiation exposure affects the human body, and can help the development of treatment strategies. Microgravity may also facilitate the creation of engineered tissues that are better able to function than tissues produced on Earth.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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