The WSU Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors are comprised of faculty with significant experience in translational research and technology commercialization at WSU. Collectively they offer a substantial resource for faculty interested in learning more about how to design, develop, fund and implement efforts to transform research into products and services that benefit the public. The EFA is a Presidential Commission and its mission is based on recommendations from WSU’s external review of innovation and entrepreneurship activities (ERIE). Introducing the Founding EFA Members:
Cliff Berkman, PhD – Pullman
Cliff Berkman is a professor and chair of Chemistry at WSU and co-founder of Cancer Targeted Technology (CTT). CTT is focused on utilizing enzyme inhibitors as targeting molecules for the delivery of diagnostic and therapeutic agents for cancer. He has been successful in obtaining numerous grants for this work (NIH, DoD, and LSDF), including SBIR grants. CTT has licensed a diagnostic agent for prostate cancer to Novartis, which has completed clinical trials and is awaiting FDA approval. Cliff also develop a pH-responsive cleavable linker technology that promises to solve technological shortcomings of antibody-drug conjugates, controlled release drugs, and drug-eluting stents.
Allison Coffin, PhD – Vancouver
Allison Coffin is an associate professor of neuroscience at WSU on the Vancouver campus. Her research examines the cellular mechanisms of hearing loss and seeks novel drug therapies for hearing loss prevention. Her current work examines the potential for COVID-19 therapeutics to cause hearing loss as an unwanted side-effect. As part of this work, she collaborates with WSU Vancouver spin-out Rewire Inc to use machine learning to predict drug-ear interactions. She is also the president and co-founder of the Association of Science Communicators, a WSUV non-profit spin-out that empowers science communicators to increase the impact of science in society. Allison is the Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassador for the Vancouver campus.
Amit Dhingra, PhD – Pullman
Amit Dhingra is now a professor and head of Horticultural Sciences and a Senior Scientist in the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and Development at Texas A&M University. Amit served as the Chair of the EFA from 2017-2021, and professor and interim Chair in the Department of Horticulture, and a faculty in two interdisciplinary graduate programs. Along with the EFA members, he organized the inaugural retreat on ‘Intrapreneruship for Sustainable Excellence for Research Infrastructure at WSU’. In 2011, Amit founded – the first agriculture biotechnology spin off from his program at WSU – with four of his graduate students. The company grew to 180 employees before becoming insolvent. He re-spun the technology and recently his spinout acquired a biochar production company to become Qualterra Inc, which is on a mission to create innovations for agriculture and sustainability. He serves as CSO for Moolec Science, a publicly traded molecular farming company, and also for Ryp Labs, a Bothel, WA based company that is committed to putting an end to food waste. As an EFA member, Dhingra continues to provide experience-based advice regarding various forms of intellectual property and strategies to safeguard it, pathways to commercialization of a concept in an academic institution, building entrepreneurial teams and pitfalls to avoid when taking a concept to market. He also assists investments groups with technology assessment and advocates for the need for academic entrepreneurship as an important aspect of the Land Grant Mission.
Boel Fransson, DVM, PhD – Pullman
Boel Fransson is an associate professor of small animal surgery in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. She has developed the Veterinary Assessment of Laparoscopic Skills (VALS) program, a training and assessment program for veterinary surgeons, launched in the United States, Canada, and Austria, by five institutions. More information on VALS can be found here: www.valsprogram.org. Dr. Fransson is the ACVS Resident Program Director and also performs clinical rounds at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, as a board-certified small animal surgery specialist.
Phil Garner, PhD – Pullman
Phil Garner is a Professor of Chemistry at WSU. Phil has used his expertise to develop innovative solutions to challenging problems at the nexus of Chemistry, Biology, and Medicine. His configurationally stable serinal derivative, marketed as the “Garner aldehyde,” finds applications in laboratories around the world. In addition to involvement with startups (Xeres Pharmaceuticals), Phil has experience establishing industrial partnerships (most recently with Abbvie). Alumni from his lab have gone on to start their own companies (CellMosaic). Currently, Phil’s group is working to (1) apply their [C+NC+CC] pyrrolidine synthesis to fragment-based drug discovery and (2) develop new chemical methodology for the construction of homogeneous glycoproteins.
Joe Harding, PhD – Pullman
Joe Harding is a professor of physiology and neuroscience at WSU, and co-founder of M3 Biotechnology. M3 Biotechnology is a young therapeutics company that has a novel platform of pharmaceuticals that modifies growth-factor systems. The company’s lead compound, MM-201, is being advanced as a first in class, orally available, Blood Brain Barrier permeate and disease-modifying treatment for Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The compound is poised to start clinical trials this year, and several other compounds are in the pipeline. As an EFA, Joe looks forward to sharing his experience in patenting and licensing discoveries, obtaining funding from agencies such as NIH, LSDF, and starting companies.
Jacob Leachman, PhD – Pullman
Jacob Leachman is an Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University (WSU). He initiated the Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Center at WSU in 2010 to advance cryogenic and/or hydrogen systems. To this day the HYPER Center remains the only US academic laboratory focusing on cryogenic hydrogen. He earned a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2005 and a M.S. degree in 2007 from the University of Idaho. His master’s thesis has been adopted as the foundation for hydrogen fueling standards and custody exchange, in addition to winning the Western Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Thesis Award for 2008. He completed his Ph.D. in the Cryogenic Engineering Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010 under the advice of John Pfotenhauer and Greg Nellis. He is the lead author of the reference texts “Thermodynamic Properties of Cryogenic Fluids: 2nd Edition” and “Cool Fuel: The Science and Engineering of Cryogenic Hydrogen” which is in development. In 2018 he received the Roger W. Boom Award from the Cryogenic Society of America. In 2021 he mentored the NASA Big Ideas Challenge winning team by solving the problem of lunar dust mitigation with liquid nitrogen sprays.
David Makin, PhD – Pullman – EFA Co-Chair
David A. Makin is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology and co-founder of the Complex Social Interaction lab (CSI). CSI is dedicated to developing technology and performance metrics to aid the public safety and security community. CSI has a provisional patent on the use of audio analytics and machine learning for detecting intense police-community interactions. Additionally, using analytics (audio, video, and biometrics) and machine learning, the lab is working towards the development of technologies and processes for early warning systems, post-event analysis, and incident flagging for a range of public safety and security stakeholders. CSI is also involved in the development of a wearable device for police officers.
Marie Mayes, MBA – Pullman
Marie Mayes serves as Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and as a Scholarly Associate Professor in the Carson College of Business at Washington State University. In her current role as a leader of WSU’s entrepreneurial efforts, Marie promotes entrepreneurial engagement, scholarship, and dialogue across the University. Marie teaches Launching New Ventures, New Venture Planning and Strategic Management courses. Outside her work at WSU, Marie maintains an innovation consulting practice and is an active angel investor. She holds a BA in Political Science and an MBA, both from Washington State University.
Katrina Mealey, DVM, PhD – Pullman
Katrina Mealey, DVM PhD and Regents Professor is the Director of the Program in Individualized Medicine (PrIMe) at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. PrIMe faculty and staff have identified genetic risk factors for adverse drug reactions and therapeutic interventions in dogs and cats. Their intellectual property portfolio has been licensed nationally and internationally generating over $4 million in royalties for WSU. More importantly, the PrIMe team has saved the lives of thousands of dogs and cats around the world. Dr. Mealey has been awarded numerous honors for her work including Fellow of the National Academy of inventors.
M. Grant Norton, PhD – Pullman
Grant Norton is Dean of the Honors College and Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. In 2007, Professor Norton co-founded GoNano Technologies, a start-up company focused on applications of a unique nanomaterial platform. More recently, his research on next-generation battery materials was licensed to Seattle-based Intellectual Ventures. As an EFA, Norton shares his expertise with the National Science Foundation’s SBIR program, technology licensing, and developing business plans for early-stage funding.
Reza Safavi, MFA – Pullman – EFA Co-Chair
Reza Safavi is a Professor and Director of Digital Media, in the Department of Art at Washington State University. Safavi’s research examines how the presence of technology in daily life shapes human experience: our perceptions, social behaviors, economics, entertainment and the way we meet our basic needs. He uses digital and analog forms of technology to create interactive installations and experiences that highlight the interfaces, both macro and micro, among communities, technology, consciousness and the environment. His artwork is regularly exhibited nationally and internationally. He has been a member of a number of artist groups, and in addition to his solo work, he regularly participates on collaborative projects. Safavi serves as a media consultant for various startup companies.
Mark VanDam, PhD – Spokane
Mark VanDam, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine on the Spokane campus. His research is focused on the intersection of language and modern technologies such as automatic speech recognition and processing, wearables and biofeedback. He is currently working to develop a wearible feedback device for adults with Parkinson’s disease. Mark serves as the Spokane Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassador liaison to the WSU Spokane campus.
Bin Yang, PhD – Tri-Cities
Dr. Bin Yang is a Professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and the Bioproduct, Sciences & Engineering Laboratory at Washington State University. His major research interests include understanding fundamental mechanisms and advancing cutting-edge biomass processing technologies for advanced biofuels and bioproducts, facilitating the commercialization process as well as improving our knowledge of emerging technologies to meet near and long-term needs worldwide. He has authored more than 135 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and has six issued patents. He also serves as an advisory editor board member for leading biorefinery journals. Dr. Yang recently has pioneered new biomass pretreatment technology and manufacturing technologies to process biomass into jet fuel, bioplastics, carbon fiber, supercapacitor, hydrogen carriers, and other bioproducts.
Glenn Prestwich, PhD – Spokane – EFA Founder
Glenn D. Prestwich is the President’s Distinguished Visiting Professor (Emeritus) at Washington State University and founder and Interim Leader of the EFA program until summer 2017. After retirement, he continues to help EFA maintain a robust culture of impact that allows discoveries on campus to be developed into viable products that will positively affect the lives of people in Washington state and beyond. He also co-founded the incubator sp3nw, with branches in Spokane and Pullman, as well as the Evergreen Bioscience Innovation Cluster, on which he is a founding Board member. He has co-founded 9 companies, including Echelon Biosciences, Glycosan BioSystems (now BioTime), Sentrx Animal Care, GlycoMira Therapeutics, and Maana Discoveries. Dr. Prestwich is the Presidential Professor of Medicinal Chemistry (Emeritus) at the University of Utah where he founded and directed the Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholars program at Utah. He is actively consults in life science intellectual property via Clear Solutions Biomedical.
Clint Cole, PhD – Pullman
Clint Cole is an adjunct professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer science. Clint has contributed to saving perhaps tens of thousands of people as one of a small group to develop the world’s most popular portable defibrillator. A former paramedic, Cole went to work at engineering firms working on the development of portable defibrillators after his studies at WSU. He and a group of fellow research engineers left in 1992 to found Heartstream. The innovation of the Heartstream product entailed the use of a bi-phasic wave form. The machines hit the market in 1996 and soon after, the original group sold the company to Hewlett-Packard. Clint is well known in the business community in and around the Palouse, and can help connect WSU researchers to local business.
John Harkness, PhD – Vancouver
John Harkness was a postdoctoral research associate in the laboratory of Dr. Barbara Sorg, at the WSU Vancouver campus. In the lab, he investigates the role of perineuronal nets, a form of extra cellular matrix, in the regulation of neural processes associated with sleep, memory, and cocaine seeking. John also serves on the Board of Directors for NW Noggin, a Portland-based neuroscience outreach group. Additionally, John is a co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Rewire Neuroscience (), a WSU startup dedicated to empowering the future of neuroscience through cloud-connected data acquisition and data sharing tools.
Brian Kraft, PhD – Pullman
Brian Kraft was (Until Fall ’23) Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Research Engagement within the Office of Research at Washington State University. Within this role he is focused on building research partnerships with public and private sector interests that serve to translate innovative research at WSU into meaningful societal impacts. Brian has a long track record of building successful collaborations in areas ranging from research focused on technology commercialization to the development of student training programs to the implementation of organizational change initiatives. Specific WSU initiatives, Brian formerly led efforts to implement the recommendations of the External Review of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors program, WSU I-Corps site, Small Business Development Center, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiative.
Changki Mo, PhD – Tri-Cities
Dr. Changki Mo is Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University Tri-Cities. His research interest includes vehicular and structural vibration control, smart materials and structures: vibration-based piezoelectric energy harvesting, MEMS actuators and sensors, and adaptive structures using shape memory polymers, and agricultural robotics and automation. Much of his current research focuses on robotic end-effector design for tree fruit harvesting, vibration-based piezoelectric energy harvesting, and morphing systems using shape memory polymer. He has published about 70 peer reviewed journal and conference articles and one book chapter.
Jay Wright, PhD – Pullman
Jay Wright is an Emeritus Regents Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology (VCAPP), as well as programs in Neuroscience and Biotechnology. Jay is a long time collaborator with Joe Harding and co-founder of M3 Biotechnology. He is the co-author of over 200 peer reviewed publications and co-inventor of three issued, two published and two provisional patents. Jay has extensive experience navigating the commercialization path as a tenure track faculty and department chair.