​At the annual Research and Innovation Showcase held Wednesday, April 10, Emre Koksal, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, was awarded as The Ohio State University 2024 Innovator of the Year.

"I'm truly humbled," said Koksal. "I'm thankful to the whole ecosystem here," sharing his experience that the region is a great place to be building business.


The Innovator of the Year award recognizes established Ohio State researchers who are actively working to promote the commercialization of university intellectual property, through invention disclosures filed, patents applied for and/or received, technologies licensed or spin-off companies formed. Two other awards were presented during the event.

Koksal is the founder and CEO of FenixPyre and a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has testified to Congress multiple times on various aspects of cybersecurity. He is a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors. His awards include the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Columbus Business First – Inventor of the Year Award, HP Labs - Innovation Research Award, Ohio State College of Engineering Innovator Award (twice) Lumley Research Award (twice). Papers he has co-authored received the best paper award in various top conference venues. He has served as an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications and Elsevier Computer Networks. Koksal received SM and PhD degrees from MIT in 1998 and 2003, respectively, in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. 

Early Career Innovator of the Year award was given to Kotaro Nakanishi, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. This award recognizes Ohio State researchers who are early in their career, actively working to promote commercialization of university intellectual property. "I would like to thank the leadership team for selecting me, this is a great honor," said Nakanishi, adding, "I want to thank my lab members, they have tested many of my crazy ideas."

Nakanishi is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research, funded by three NIH grants, seeks to understand how small non-coding RNAs and their binding proteins work together to control eukaryotic gene expression. His research group also discovered cleavage-inducing tiny RNAs (cityRNAs). He has filed patents for his technologies and is a co-founder of a company that aims to develop cityRNA-based therapeutics for diseases whose targets have been undruggable by conventional approaches.  Nakanishi earned his bachelor's and masters in biochemistry from the Tokyo University of Science and the University of Tokyo, respectively, and his doctorate in Biological Information from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he was also a postdoctoral fellow. He held progressive research positions at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center before coming to Ohio State in 2013.

Enming (Sam) Xing, a doctoral candidate in the College of Pharmacy, was named Next Generation Innovator of the Year. This award recognizes postdocs, undergraduates or graduates for innovation and entrepreneurship that has contributed to the development or commercialization of a new technology or a trainee-initiated start-up company whose success is a result of entrepreneurial talent, creativity and energy. "Even though my name is engraved on here, this is a team effort," said Xing. 

Xing is a PhD candidate in the Medicinal Chemistry and Computational Drug Design program. Originally trained as a synthetic chemist interested in drug discovery and development, Xing has expanded his skillset to focus primarily on the application of cutting-edge techniques in the space such as computational chemistry, artificial intelligence, biological assays, cryo-EM and x-ray crystallography. His research has led to six peer-reviewed manuscripts, with two being first/co-first author publications. Xing is an inventor on four patent/provisional patent applications - all of which are for different therapeutic targets. At Ohio State, he has been awarded a research award and received a Trainee Transformative Research Grant through the Infectious Diseases Institute. Xing earned his bachelor's in medicinal chemistry from the China Pharmaceutical University.