ABOUT THE INNOVATION AWARD
As a small country, Lithuania will need to retain its strong position as an economy driven by and supporting innovation. To highlight and promote the potential for innovative cooperation between Lithuania and the United States, the American-Lithuanian Business Council (ALBC), and the Baltic American Freedom Foundation (BAFF), and the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius have established the Lithuanian-American Innovation Award. The award will be granted to a Lithuanian individual, organization, university, or firm that has developed a cutting-edge technology or solution in collaboration with a U.S. partner.
With this award we seek to recognize and award innovation broadly across business and commerce, academic and scientific research, medicine and health, the environment, energy, and education. We invite a large pool of candidates to apply and make the case for why their innovation deserves recognition. The core requirements are an impact or clear potential impact of the innovation, and the clear demonstration of collaboration with a U.S. individual or entity.
To be eligible, applicants must be Lithuanian residents, firms, or organizations registered in Lithuania. Submitted projects must demonstrate a clear Lithuanian-American link according to a combination of at least two of the following factors:
- The development and implementation of the innovation has taken place in Lithuania.
- The project is the result of work conducted in the framework of US-Lithuania academic, commercial, professional, or artistic partnership or clear collaborative effort.
- The Lithuanian initiator and responsible person/entity has strong ties with the United States.
- The project has been funded or sponsored by a U.S. source.
- The end-user or beneficiary is an American organization.
Innovations will be evaluated on their:
First Prize: Linas Mazutis & “inDrops”
Dr. Linas Mazutis, in collaboration with scientists from Harvard University, developed a technique for the efficient isolation and sequencing of single cells. The process opens new research avenues at a fraction of the cost of previous state-of-the-art commercial platforms.
The basic concept behind the platform is easy to appreciate: individual cells are loaded into aqueous droplets suspended in inert carrier oil on a microfluidic chip. Each droplet functions as an independent microreactor. Like no other technology available, the inDrops platform allows tens of thousands of single-cells to be isolated and profiled for a cost of only $0.04-0.06 per cell.
The results of Dr. Mazutis and his collaborators’ work were published in Cell, the top-tier molecular biology journal. It was highly lauded by the Director of the NIH, Francis Collins. Dr. Marc Kirschner of Harvard Medical School says the results of Dr. Mazutis’ work allowed his school to initiate new research directions and establish important collaborations with both academic and industrial groups. Harvard Medical School has set up a core facility to spread the technology.
Encouraged by the academic success, Dr. Mazutis and co-workers have cofounded two start-up companies, 1CellBIO (located in Cambridge, MA) and Droplet Genomics (located in Vilnius, LT). These biotech companies are offering the commercial solutions for single-cell next-generation sequencing. These companies are likely to bring a much wider impact to the United States and Lithuania beyond the frames of academic world.
Co-Runner Up: Rimas Gulbinas & Maalka Commercial Building Sustainability Platform
Maalka uses big data to streamline the management of sustainability programs that make commercial buildings more efficient, sustainable, and healthier for occupants. Maalka could reduce energy-use and related emissions by more than 20% in the United States.
Maalka is a technology platform that enables public (cities, states, countries) and private (corporations, real estate, etc.) customers to connect sustainability program managers, building owners and managers, and tenants to data-driven insights across portfolios that span thousands of buildings.
Dr. Gulbinas started Maalka in February 2015 to address the lack of open, big data platform solutions in the space of Smart Cities. The technology can apply to several other markets, including: commercial and corporate real estate, power and water utilities, and corporations looking to track data related to their sustainability initiatives. Maalka has grown to work with major cities, states, private organizations, and government agencies across the US to automate their building energy efficiency initiatives.
Co-Runner Up: Virginijus Siksnys, PhD, et al, CRISPR-Cas9 Technology
Professor Virginijus Siksnys and his team at the Institute of Biotechnology at Vilnius University was a cornerstone for adapting CRISPR-Cas to one of the most powerful tools ever invented for editing genomes. Siksnys and his colleagues discovered how certain bacteria cut and paste genes from other organisms and found a way to control the process. The CRISPR-Cas9 system revolutionized the genome editing field, enabling the correction of mutations that cause heritable genetic diseases, engineering new plant varieties, and discovery of novel drugs to fight cancer.
Their technology patent has been licensed to DuPont Pioneer, the world’s leading developer and supplier of advanced plant genetics. Vilnius University and DuPont have entered into a multi-year research collaboration to advance the development of the technology. “Guided Cas9 is one of the most exciting recent breakthroughs in biology and, through our collaboration with Vilnius University, we’re positioning DuPont to be an early adopter of this promising new technology in agriculture,” said
Neal Gutterson, Vice President, Agricultural Biotechnology for DuPont Pioneer.