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Expanding the Office of Research Leadership Team

Steve Bares, PhD

Research, Entrepreneurship, and Commercialization

In early November, UTHSC announced a new collaborative partnership with Memphis Bioworks Foundation and TriMetis Life Sciences. The partnership surrounds the recent addition of Steve Bares, PhD, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks, and Phil Cestaro, president and CEO of TriMetis Life Sciences, to the Office of Research Leadership Team. The pair are charged with further developing an entrepreneurial culture at UTHSC, working in close collaboration with the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF).

As the new associate vice chancellor of Research and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Bares brings to the Office of Research team over 30 years of business entrepreneurship experience and holds 10 patents. Dr. Bares’ responsibilities at UTHSC include developing training programs/seminars on intellectual property development, patent filing, marketing of IP and the nuts-and-bolts of launching startup companies. In his short time at UTHSC so far, Bares has already helped to create the Office of Research’s new UTHSC LEADS (Launching Entrepreneurial Activities and Discovery in Science) seminar series. The series is designed to bring successful and engaging entrepreneurial scientists involved in biotech, life sciences, Pharma and device sectors to UTHSC so that they may relay their “entrepreneurial stories” to our faculty, staff, and students. Specifically, UTHSC LEADS focuses on speakers who have taken an idea from “bench-to-bedside”, connecting research done in the laboratory to develop new ways to treat patients. 

“Our first LEADS seminar in late October featured the very successful businessman and entrepreneur Dr. Samuel E. Lynch, current Chairman and CEO of Lynch Biologics, LLC,” said Dr. Bares. “Dr. Lynch hosted a compelling conversation with a packed auditorium on the successes and struggles of moving research from ‘Benchtop to Bedside’. The amount of positive feedback and interest we received is the fire I am aiming to foster in my new appointment.”

Dr. Bares has also been working with faculty to support them as they apply for SBIR and STTR grants. Working in close collaboration with UTRF Vice President Richard Magid, PhD, his knowledge and expertise has already proven useful for several faculty.

Faculty enthusiasm for entrepreneurship has always been strong at UTHSC,” said Dr. Magid. “Steve and Memphis Bioworks are helping UTHSC and UTRF convert that enthusiasm into achievement. We expect to see more startups created, and success from those startups at raising capital via SBIR/STTR grants and the investment community.”

Phil Cestaro

Dr. Bares and Phil Cestaro worked closely with Dr. Magid, Vice Chancellor for Research Steve Goodman, PhD, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Industry Relations Gabor Tigyi, PhD, to create the UTHSC Innovation Lab which provides entrepreneurial UTHSC faculty with laboratory and office space for their spin-off companies at no charge to the faculty member for a full year.

“The UTHSC Operational Strategic Plan for Research called for the establishment of low cost space that would allow entrepreneurial faculty to write SBIR and STTR grants to support their spin-off companies,” said Dr. Goodman. “The UTHSC Innovation lab, which is supported jointly by the UTHSC Office of Research and Bioworks, provides this space at no cost to faculty based on a competitive application and review process. This is a unique and innovative program that demonstrates the power of academic-industry partnerships.”

Monica M. Jablonski, PhD, Professor of Ophthalmology, was selected as the first user of the Innovation Lab space. More on Dr. Jablonski’s project can be found in the pages of this edition of The Research Rainmaker.

Phil Cestaro has taken on the new role of associate vice chancellor of Research and Business Development. With a focus on external research opportunities with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies, Phil has more than 20 years of executive-level experience growing start-ups from foundation to over $100 million in value.

At UTHSC, Cestaro helped to write the business plan for the newly established Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee (CTN2). He will direct CTN2, create a centralized budgeting and contracting process, and provide business oversight for this 501(c) (3) wholly-owned subsidiary of UTRF. Cestaro is also charged with bringing external industry users for our Institutional Research Cores. These external users help us maintain lower prices for our internal UTHSC faculty.

“The research enterprise is actively growing at UTHSC,” Cestaro said. “I am excited to help UTHSC faculty maximize their impact on the community by pairing them with the companies and resources they need to be successful.”

Sponsored Programs

Sarah J. White, MA, Ed.M

Also in November, the Office of Research welcomed Sarah J. White, MA, Ed.M., as the new associate vice chancellor for Research in the Office of Sponsored Programs. In White’s new role, she will lead the merger of all existing pre and post-award functions, providing leadership, support and strategic direction for all sponsored programs administration. White brings over 20 years of sponsored programs experience to UTHSC. Prior to her current role, White served as the Associate Vice President for Research Administration at Augusta University (formerly Medical College of Georgia) and Executive Director at Augusta University Research Institute, Inc. where she managed the Division of Sponsored Programs.

“I love my work because the passion and energy that the researchers bring to their work is infectious,” said White. “This is an exciting time for research at UTHSC and I am committed to working with administration, faculty and staff to clarify, streamline, and improve processes related to the administrative aspects of securing and managing extramural funding. I believe that the strategic goals for research are achievable, and am looking forward to working with Drs. Goodman and Youngentob to help move the research enterprise forward.”

White will meticulously work towards the “overarching goal of developing a seamless, efficient, and transparent infrastructure that fully supports the research mission of the UTHSC,” said Steve Youngentob, PhD, senior associate vice chancellor for Research.

As Dr. Goodman points out in his Message from the Vice Chancellor for Research in this edition of The Research Rainmaker, “The leader must be able to articulate a clear and sensible vision and chart a path towards shared goals.” With each of these additions to the Office of Research team, we move one step further in our plan to systematically strengthen and grow the research enterprise at UTHSC. Please join the Office of Research as we welcome Steve, Phil, and Sarah to the UTHSC family.