BioUtah, the trade association that advocates for Utah’s life sciences industry, has announced its 2020 Utah Life Sciences award winners. The honors were presented during a special virtual awards session during the 2020 Virtual Utah Life Sciences Summit earlier this month. BioUtah’s awards recognize innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who have made significant contributions to the state’s life sciences industry, the organization said.

“We congratulate this year’s award winners,” said Kelvyn Cullimore, president and CEO of BioUtah. “Each individual and company being recognized has played an important role in advancing Utah’s life sciences community. We’re excited to honor their contributions to life-changing innovation and we applaud their exceptional leadership in making our industry one of the fastest-growing in the nation.”

The awards and award winners include:

Friend of Industry: Mayor Erin Mendenhall of Salt Lake City was honored for her work to establish a Salt Lake City Healthcare Innovation Center to spur research, attract capital and expand Utah’s life sciences industry by making the development of the life sciences community in Salt Lake City the focal point of her economic development plan. Mendenhall is leading efforts to lay the groundwork for the center under the Tech Lake City initiative. The center is a new phase, building upon a concept first developed in 2018: a planned city effort to build more incubator, office and wet lab space where startups can grow and scale with ease.

Entrepreneur of the Year: This award went to Chris Gibson, co-founder and CEO of Salt Lake City-based pharmaceutical company Recursion, for his role as an industry-leading pioneer in building a computationally intelligent drug discovery platform to radically increase the scale at which drugs are discovered and for his robust efforts to support and nurture life sciences innovation and entrepreneurs in the state. Gibson was instrumental in the formation of both the Altitude Lab, an incubator/accelerator for early-stage life sciences and healthcare companies at the University of Utah; and BioHive, a branding campaign to promote and grow the life sciences industry.

Innovation Impact Award: Bill Phillips, chief operating officer at Draper’s Spectrum Solutions, accepted the award that recognized the company’s saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostic testing innovation, first in the nation to receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 sample collection system. Major League Baseball credits Spectrum’s innovation for providing a testing solution that allowed the sport to return to the field this summer.

Executive of the Year: This award went to Randy Rasmussen, co-founder of BioFire Diagnostics, for his vision in founding and building a successful global diagnostic company to revolutionize testing for infectious disease. BioFire’s FilmArray technology uses a diagnostic machine that chemically processes a patient’s sample and uses the DNA or RNA of the pathogen to identify it. Using this technology, BioFire has developed FDA authorized tests for respiratory pathogens, including influenza and COVID-19, as well as many other diseases.

Lifetime Achievement: Gary Crocker, president of Crocker Ventures and chairman and president of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, received this award for his contributions during the past 45 years to the Utah life sciences industry as an entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and passionate advocate for life-changing research and innovation. Through his career, Crocker has founded, grown and sold several highly successful enterprises, including Research Medical, the nation’s largest open-heart surgery device company, which was acquired by Baxter International's Edwards Life Science division in 1997 for $236 million.

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