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CALS profs named NC State Innovators of the Year

Two College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professors have won NC State University’s 2015 Innovator of the Year Award. Drs. Sylvia Blankenship and Todd Klaenhammer were recognized by university Chancellor Randy Woodson during the Office of Technology Transfer’s 26th Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship earlier this month.

Blankenship, CALS’ associate dean for administration and professor of horticultural science, was recognized as inventor of one of the most successful technologies ever developed at NC State. Along with co-inventor Dr. Edward Sisler, Blankenship discovered 1-methylcyclopropene, a material that blocks the activity of the naturally occurring plant hormone ethylene.

The technology extends the storage life of fruit and floral products and is used in over 26 countries around the world. This has led to revolutionary changes in the way apples and other products are handled in the postharvest environment.

Blankenship is a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science and received its Outstanding Researcher Award. She is also an International Society for Horticultural Science fellow. She joined the faculty at NC State in 1983.

Klaenhammer was honored for his visionary leadership in the area of food microbiology and biotechnology. He and his research team have a distinguished intellectual property portfolio that has resulted in 36 issued patents and 22 licenses and executed options.

In 2009, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors awarded him the prestigious O. Max Gardner award for the most outstanding research in the system. His group has published over 280 articles on lactic acid bacteria, their bacteriophages and probiotic cultures and their genomic traits.

Klaenhammer was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2001. He is a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, the Institute of Food Technologists and the American Dairy Science Association. He joined the faculty at NC State in 1978.