Innovators in the UNC-Chapel Hill community approach their work from countless perspectives. Some are faculty working on scientific or social breakthroughs. Others are students or alumni exploring novel ideas or working on startup ventures. And others are expert entrepreneurs who provide management expertise to UNC-affiliated companies. While diverse in background and focus, they all share a common purpose: lending their knowledge, passion and time to help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Meet a few of our innovators. Learn about the ideas they’re working on. And take away a little insight and inspiration that can help make your own ideas work. 


David Ansong

David Ansong, an assistant professor at the UNC School of Social Work, is working with professors Selena Childs, Kanisha Brevard and Mark Testa to develop and implement a new approach to qualify relative caregivers for the same level of guardianship assistance that adoptive parents receive. Find out how he and his team are taking an entrepreneurial approach to solve this long-standing issue.

Liz Chen and Cristina Leos

Liz Chen and Cristina Leos are former doctoral students at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and co-founders of the Real Talk app. Chen is now an associate professor at the school, where she met Leos and launched her venture and mobile app. The app uses real stories by real teens to convey relevant and credible information about the issues that teens go through growing up. Learn how they are improving the health and well-being of youth through this innovative learning tool.


Paul Dayton and Ryan Gessner

Paul Dayton, professor and interim chair of the UNC-NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering is a co-founder of SonoVol and head of the company’s scientific advisory board. He works with Ryan Gessner, a former UNC-Chapel Hill student and co-founder and CEO of the company, to push in vivo imaging to the edge. The company’s technology helps researchers get better drugs to market, faster – with less expense. Learn about SonoVol’s entrepreneurial journey, keys to the firm's success and its industry-changing technology.

Ronit Freeman

Ronit Freeman, an associate professor in the UNC Department of Applied Physical Sciences, believes in the power of interdisciplinary endeavors. After all, this scientist, whose academic training crosses the fields of chemistry, computer science, nanotechnology and other fields, is also a talented ballroom dancer who has taught senior citizens to dance. That kind of versatile mindset and approach to life manifests itself in her current research in the field of molecular self-assembly. In her lab, Freeman works with others across many scientific fields to design complex molecular structures that have the potential to improve medical therapies and the body's own healing process.

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Natalia Mitin

Natalia Mitin is CEO, president and co-founder of Sapere Bio (formerly Healthspan DX). A former assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Natalia is passionate about developing technologies that measure individual’s physiologic reserve to help clinicians personalize clinical care and help patients have better outcomes and quality of life. Learn how this academic scientist-turned-entrepreneur is working to advance personalized, preventive medicine.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams, an assistant professor at the UNC School of Nursing, is helping to address a major problem that even many health providers are uncomfortable dealing with: intimate partner violence. Find out how she is developing a virtual simulation program aimed at giving health providers a safe and realistic online environment that will help them develop the skills to interact more comfortably and effectively with patients.


Ryan Hallett

Ryan Hallett is co-founder and CEO of Dualogics, a research and development company using the latest advancements in protein engineering to create a new class of protein based therapies. After three years of evolution, Dualogics is finding its home focused on using their OrthoMab platform to generate therapies that serve unmet needs in the field of autoimmunity and immuno-modulation. Gain insights and learn from this UNC alumni's innovation journey as Dualogics has transitioned from academia to industry.

Ricky Spero

Ricky Spero is co-founder and CEO of Redbud Labs. An alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill, he is an active participant in the local innovation and entrepreneurship community. Learn how this scientist and the team at Redbud Labs are creating a next-generation diagnostic that will improve patient care and reduce hospital costs in critical-care settings, including trauma and surgery.


Susan Nichols

Susan Nichols is the CEO of Falcon Therapeutics and is best known in the global cell and gene therapy market as a business connectivity matchmaker, innovative commercial strategist and a networking powerhouse. Susan has more than twenty years of corporate management and leadership experience in high growth biotech. Learn how her experience building highly functioning teams is helping her to pursue her passion: accelerating therapies to patients who need them most.

Dale Christensen

Dale Christensen is president of Christensen Consulting and adjunct associate professor at Duke University Medical Center. Find out how he helps drug development startups find the resources they need by providing guidance and expertise, while also promoting entrepreneurship.

Anil Goyal

Anil Goyal, chief business officer at OpenDoors Group, helps early-stage, private and public life sciences companies design and execute strategic business development and marketing plans. Find out how this scientist's move from the bench to the "dark side" of business development has allowed him to grow biotechnology companies that are developing novel, innovative therapies, technologies and discovery platforms.

Tony Voiers

Tony Voiers joined Advanced Chemotherapy Technologies as CEO after meeting with company co-founder Jen Jen Yeh, a professor of surgery at the UNC School of Medicine. Voiers relies on his experience in engineering and management to run the business, which is focused on groundbreaking chemotherapy solutions. Its current focus is a pancreatic cancer drug delivery device that delivers higher levels of chemotherapy directly to the pancreas -- and hope for better outcomes in patients.

Bill Wofford

Bill is a corporate transactional lawyer and drug development entrepreneur. He leads the biopharmaceutical and life sciences practice at Hutchison, where his practice focuses on structuring and negotiating transactions for drug development, biotechnology, medical device and healthcare services companies and financial, strategic and philanthropic investors.


Michelle Bolas

Michelle is the associate vice chancellor for innovation strategy and programs. She leads the Office of Innovate Carolina, where she has served as director since 2016. Innovate Carolina is the University-wide initiative for innovation and entrepreneurship that helps move a greater number of valuable ideas into the world faster for the public good.