Pharmaceutical Sciences Professor Weian Zhao, Ph.D. wins 2020 UCI Beall Applied Innovation Innovator of the Year Award

Weian Zhao
Photo credit: UCI Applied Innovation

The UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences would like to congratulate Dr. Weian Zhao, Professor from UCI’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, for being awarded the UCI Beall Applied Innovation Innovator of the Year Award.

Dr. Zhao has developed innovative technologies that have contributed to cancer and infectious disease research. He is also the co-founder of Velox Biosystems, Inc., Amberstone Biosciences, Inc., and Arvetas Biosciences Inc., three startup companies that aim to develop rapid and sensitive diagnostics, immunotherapeutics, and spatialomics, respectively. Dr. Zhao’s research aims to elucidate and eventually control the fate of transplanted cells, including stem cells and immune cells, and to develop novel miniaturized devices for disease diagnosis and monitoring. 

In response to the pandemic, Dr. Zhao collaborated with Philip Felgner, Ph.D., Director of the UCI Vaccine Research and Development Center, and his startup companies to develop and launch a highly accurate serology test for COVID-19. They performed large cohort studies which have provided new insights for vaccine development, surveillance, and reopening measures. The team has also received FDA clearance to market the test under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) mechanism. 

The Innovator of the Year Award “recognizes distinguished innovators who have demonstrated excellence by developing a breakthrough idea, process, or technology and shown its transformational potential to improve lives and create economic value.” During the virtual award ceremony, Dr. Zhao extended his gratitude toward the Beall Family for their efforts to accelerate innovation: “I am honored and humbled to receive the award. I would like to thank the Beall Family— I always admired Don and Ken for their work in promoting innovation for the good of mankind.”

Dr. Zhao is also grateful for the support of his research team and the new School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: “This award recognizes the phenomenal work ethic of my research team—they are the true heroes. It also illuminates our school’s commitment to supporting innovation. The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences inspires us to identify and address the unmet needs in society, whatever that might be,” says Dr. Zhao. 

To all aspiring scientists, innovators, and students, Dr. Zhao would like to provide a few words of wisdom: “Innovation and the process of translating research from the lab to the market, often takes more effort than we may think— but it is exciting and makes what we do worthwhile. It takes a “can-do” attitude. Thus, I encourage you to ask for help and seek mentorship from those who have succeeded in what you are trying to do.”

Dr. Zhao has also received many other honors and awards, including: 1) UCI Beall’s Applied Innovation’s Inaugural Faculty Innovation Fellow, 2) MIT’s Technology Review TR35 Award: the World’s Top 35 Innovators Under the Age of 35, and 3) NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. Visit the Zhao Lab website to learn more about his research, innovations, and awards. Click here to learn more about the Innovator of the Year Award and UCI Beall Applied Innovation.

By: Nedda Bozorgmehri  – UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

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