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Utah Life Sciences News & Events

Utah Life Sciences Leaders Honored At 2020 Virtual Life Sciences Summit

November 13, 2020

On the last day of the Summit, BioUtah announced its 2020 Utah Life Sciences award winners, which were presented during a special virtual awards session.

Gary Crocker, president of Crocker Ventures, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award Other distinguished award winners include Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall; Chris Gibson, CEO, Recursion Pharmaceuticals; Randy Rasmussen, co-founder, BioFire and; Spectrum Solutions represented by COO, Bill Phillips — all recognized for their contributions to medical innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and the life sciences community at large.

“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.”

Additional details about the awards and award recipients follows:

Friend of Industry: Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City

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.

“Our partnership with BioUtah and the progress we’ve made to help elevate the life sciences industry within the city has been a pleasure. We’re forging new ground in economic development and healthcare innovation is a major pillar that effort. We couldn’t be more excited about the future of this industry in our city and across the state. Thank you for this ‘Friend of Industry’ award and know that we are just getting started!”

—Mayor Erin Mendenhall

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Entrepreneur of the Year: Chris Gibson, PhD, co-founder and CEO, 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.

“It is such an honor to be recognized today as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by BioUtah. A huge thanks to the team at Recursion who makes all of this possible. To have the chance to save or improve another life is such a gift and an opportunity. I relish being able to take this big swing, alongside so many others in our industry. One thing I’ve noticed in my 10 years here in Utah is the amazing sense of community we foster — so many people helped Recursion in its early stages and continue to do so today. I’m hopeful through our efforts we can give back a little.”

Chris Gibson, PhD, co-founder and CEO, Recursion

Innovation Impact Award: Spectrum Solutions, for the company’s saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostic testing innovation, first in the nation to receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization for their SDNA-1000 saliva collection system and the first COVID-19 sample collection system to mitigate unnecessary exposure risks providing immediate and complete, in-device viral inactivation.

“Thank you, BioUtah. I truly speak for everyone here at Spectrum when I say how humbled and thankful we all are for the recognition, and honor of receiving this year’s ‘Innovation Impact Award’. We are proud to not only be part of, but support this incredible Utah life science community. Our teams here are looking forward to even more solution-focused innovations and the opportunity for exciting new collaborations.”

Bill Phillips, COO, Spectrum Solutions

Executive of the Year: Randy Rasmussen, co-founder, BioFire Diagnostics, for his vision in founding and building a successful global diagnostic company to revolutionize testing for infectious disease. In 2014, BioFire was acquired by the multinational French microbiology company, bioMérieux, and first became their “Global Center of Excellence for Molecular Diagnostics” and will now become bioMérieux’s North American headquarters.

“Thank you for this honor and recognition by BioUtah as ‘Executive to of the Year’. I want to thank my founding partners and the team at BioFire who have been stalwarts through the big growth years. I feel good about leaving a legacy of nearly $300 million worth of life sciences infrastructure in the Salt Lake valley. It’s been an interesting career going from a small company of three employees to nearly 3,000. With bioMerieux moving its North American headquarters here, I know that BioFire is going to be an anchor tenant for decades to come.”

Randy Rasmussen, co-founder, BioFire Diagnostics 

Lifetime Achievement: Gary Crocker, president of Crocker Ventures and chairman and president, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, for his exceptional and myriad 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. Throughout his career, Crocker has founded, grown and sold several highly successful enterprises. For the past 14 years he has been chairman and more recently president of Boston-based Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, which received FDA approval for a new pancreatic cancer drug in 2016. Among his numerous community endeavors, the Crocker Family was instrumental in establishing the Crocker Science Center at the University of Utah.

“Thank you so much, BioUtah, for this ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’. I appreciate the honor. It’s been an interesting 45 years trying to find niches that had a real pressing clinical need and then address those needs. I feel fortunate that I was mentored by so many good people. We’ve built upon the foundation laid by pioneers in medical devices, going back to the 1950’s. I’ve also had the opportunity to engage in philanthropic endeavors – for example at the University of Utah, the Crocker family anchored the gift for Crocker Science Center. It’s been a tremendous ride and I look forward with enthusiasm to see what the future holds for the life sciences industry in Utah.” 

Gary Crocker, president of Crocker Ventures and chairman and president, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals