BioUtah Announces 2020 Utah Life Sciences Awards

Gary Crocker, president of Crocker Ventures and chairman and president of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Virtual Utah Life Sciences Summit. Other award winners include Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall; Chris Gibson, CEO, Recursion; Randy Rasmussen, co-founder, BioFire Diagnostics; and Spectrum Solutions — all being honored for their contributions to medical innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and the life sciences community at large.

SALT LAKE CITY--()--BioUtah today announced its 2020 Utah Life Sciences award winners. Five awards will be presented during a special virtual awards session at the 2020 Virtual Utah Life Sciences Summit, Nov. 11. BioUtah’s awards recognize innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who have made significant contributions to the state’s life sciences industry. To register and learn more about the awards session, award recipients and agenda visit

“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.”

Awards will be presented on Nov. 11, during a virtual ceremony in which pre-recorded videos of the winners will be unveiled, with the opportunity for recipients to also provide pre-recorded or live stream remarks.

The awards and award winners are as 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.

What has been years in the making for the city, Mayor Erin Mendenhall is now leading efforts to lay the groundwork for a new Healthcare Innovation Center under the Tech Lake City initiative. The center is a new phase, building upon the corridor 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.

Key goals of the effort include developing a central downtown facility for innovation, inclusive workforce development, better public/private partnerships, business friendly zoning policies and national awareness campaigns, among others.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Chris Gibson, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Salt Lake City-based 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.

In August, with significant investment by Recursion, and in partnership with the University of Utah, Gibson launched Altitude Lab, the region’s largest of its kind incubator/accelerator for early-stage life sciences and healthcare companies in Utah. Gibson has also been instrumental in the founding of BioHive — a new bold, branding campaign to promote, grow and catapult Utah’s life sciences industry onto the national and global stage.

Recursion has previously been recognized by its industry peers, winning two Fierce Innovation awards from the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. The awards, Best Biotech Innovation and Best In Show - New Product or Service, recognized Recursion's disruptive combination of experimental biology and artificial intelligence applied to drug discovery.

Chris serves on the board of BioUtah and is the chair of its BioHive initiative, the public-private partnership driving expansion of Utah's life sciences ecosystem, the fastest growing in the nation.

Innovation Impact Award: Spectrum Solutions, headquartered in Draper, Utah, 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.

First to secure authorization for at-home saliva self-collection, the SDNA-1000 mitigates exposure risks throughout the entire testing process from families collecting samples at home to bio-sample transport mail carriers, in clinic healthcare professionals, and testing laboratory teams. It provides more than a 90% reduction in PPE requirements — all with less variability and a better patient experience. October delivered Spectrum’s third EUA authorization, successfully expanding saliva-based testing access and availability for currently authorized testing labs across the nation. Spectrum's patented collection system has rewritten viral testing protocols worldwide and left its most memorable mark on 2020 history.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is quoted crediting Spectrum’s innovation for not only bringing baseball back to the game, but for providing a testing solution helping to keep players on the field. Additionally, Spectrum’s innovation impact will be honored, and its SDNA-1000 saliva collection device immortalized within MLB Baseball’s Hall of Fame 2020 showcase, and will continue an MLB partnership through 2021.

Executive of the Year: 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.

Prior to BioFire’s innovations, doctors had to order many individual tests to determine which virus or bacteria was causing a patient’s disease. Rasmussen’s innovative syndromic testing simplified the process by consolidating groups of pathogens into a single rapid test. This important information allows physicians to quickly get the patient on the right treatment.

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 other diagnostic tests for gastrointestinal infections, blood infections, brain infections and lung infections.

BioFire, which started out as Idaho Technology, was formed in Kirk Ririe’s garage in Idaho Falls, Idaho, using technology spun out of Carl Wittwer’s lab at the University of Utah. 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. Since its inception, the company has experienced tremendous growth with large-scale national and international success, employing over 3,000 Utahns in the development, manufacture and sale of instruments and kits for syndromic testing.

Lifetime Achievement: Gary Crocker, president of Crocker Ventures and chairman and president of 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, including Research Medical, the nation’s largest open-heart surgery device company, which was acquired by Baxter International Edward’s Life Science division in 1997 for $236 million. In the early 1980s, he served as the primary negotiator of Abbott’s $100 million acquisition of Sorenson Research, a landmark transaction in Utah’s medical device industry. He was a co-founder and director of one of the state’s first pharmaceutical firms, Theratech, which was sold in 1999 to Watson Pharmaceuticals.

More recently, Crocker has held senior executive or chairman level positions in several Utah and national life sciences firms, including chairman of the diagnostics firm ARUP Laboratories and director and investor in Interleuken Genetics, LineaGen and MedDesign Catheters. 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. He also serves as chairman and primary investor in Utah’s Nexus Spine, an innovator in novel and pain-reducing spinal implants.

In the community, the Crocker Family was instrumental in establishing the Crocker Science Center at the University of Utah. Crocker has also served 26 years as chairman of the Utah Youth Village; director of BioUtah, and as vice-chair of the University of Utah’s Board of Trustees and on the board of the university hospital, as well as a long-time director of the University’s Research Foundation. He was also chairman of the University’s College of Science Advisory Board and has been inducted into the College of Science Hall of Fame.

About BioUtah

BioUtah is an independent 501(c)(6) trade association serving Utah’s life sciences industry. Its member companies reflect a broad spectrum of the industry with strengths in medical device manufacturing and services, research and testing, biotechnology, biopharmaceuticals, and advanced diagnostics, amongst others; and are a key driver of Utah’s economy.


Denise Bell

Release Summary

BioUtah announces 2020 Utah Life Sciences Awards, honoring Utah industry leaders and partners for their contributions to advancing the life sciences.


Denise Bell