Charlottesville Biotechnology Entrepreneur Wins National Award

March 29, 2012 - A prestigious national award has just been presented to Crystal R. Icenhour, PhD, President and Chief Science Officer of the biotechnology company Phthisis Diagnostics, based in Charlottesville. She was selected as the 2012 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Outstanding Postdoctoral Entrepreneur by the Foundation and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) for her success as an entrepreneur combining science and business.

In presenting the award at the NPA’s annual meeting in San Francisco on March 16, Dominique Pahud, director of Advancing Innovation at the Kauffman Foundation, observed, “Postdoctoral scholars who take the entrepreneurial path bring enormous promise to society and the economy. We hope these awards will encourage entrepreneurial excellence throughout the scientific community.”

Now in its third year, the award program is part of an effort by the Kauffman Foundation to cultivate the entrepreneurial potential of scientists and researchers nationwide. Consideration for Dr. Icenhour’s prize is granted to entrepreneurs with companies at least three years old and who have completed postdoctoral training at some point in their careers. The selection committee included Zoe Fonseca-Kelly, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and chair of the 2011 NPA Board of Directors; Avi D. Spear, PhD, Director of Business Development, Genomics Institute of Novartis Research Foundation; and Noah Weisleder, PhD, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, TRIM-edicine, and the 2011 Outstanding Postdoctoral Entrepreneur.

Dr. Icenhour, who will receive a $10,000 honorarium with this award, noted: “I was drawn to the entrepreneurial world to more effectively take my science from the bench to the patient. It is an honor to receive this award from the Kauffman Foundation and the National Postdoctoral Association. In receiving this award, I hope to inspire postdocs to consider entrepreneurial work as a viable career option. While not for the faint of heart, entrepreneurship drives innovation, economic success, and improved quality of life.”

About Crystal R. Icenhour and Phthisis Diagnostics

Crystal Icenhour has long demonstrated business leadership in addition to her scientific capabilities and expresses a goal of “bridging the translational gap between these two worlds.” She received her PhD in Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine from the University of Cincinnati Medical School of Graduate Studies in 2002. She conducted postdoctoral research in the Thoracic Diseases Research Unit at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine from 2002-2005 and in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Duke University Medical Center from 2005-2006. In 2006, she became President and Chief Science Officer for Phthisis Diagnostics and also serves as an adjunct assistant professor at Duke University Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases in their Department of Medicine.

In addition to holding seven patents, Dr. Icenhour has authored and co-authored 14 research articles and been a prolific speaker and presenter at scientific conferences. She has served on review panels for the National Science Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. Currently, she serves on the board of the Virginia Biotechnology Association and on the editorial board for the Journal of Microbiological Methods. She is a member of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, Sigma Xi, Medical Mycology Society of the Americas, National Postdoctoral Association, and the American Society for Microbiology. Well known for her work in local and national postdoctoral associations, she served as president of the Mayo Research Fellows Association Executive Committee, as chair of the membership committee of the Duke University Postdoctoral Association, and as chair of the 2008 NPA Board of Directors.

Phthisis Diagnostics, founded in 2005, is a rapidly growing biotechnology company developing the Simply Molecular® product catalog, a range of innovative molecular diagnostic products designed for speed, accuracy and ease of use. The product line offers solutions for DNA Extraction, Molecular Diagnostics, and Laboratory Quality Control. These simple diagnostics will focus on diseases of public health importance and will facilitate clinical adoption of modern, accurate diagnostics. Phthisis launched its first product, the E-Sphere® Stool DNA Extraction Kit, in May 2011 after just 18 months of development time. To date, the company has received over $3.5 million in grant funding and angel and Series A investments. For more information, visit

About the Kauffman Foundation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private nonpartisan foundation that works to harness the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to grown economies and improve human welfare. Through its research and other initiatives, the Kauffman Foundation aims to open young people’s eyes to the possibility of entrepreneurship, promote entrepreneurship education, raise awareness of entrepreneurship-friendly policies, and find alternative pathways for the commercialization of new knowledge and technologies. In addition, the Foundation focuses on initiatives in the Kansas City region to advance students’ math and science skills and improve the educational achievement of urban students, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, a college preparatory charter school for middle and high school students. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, MO and has approximately $2 billion in assets. For more information, visit

About the National Postdoctoral Association

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), headquartered in Washington, DC, is a non-profit national organization of postdoctoral scientists, postdoctoral administrators, faculty, research universities, professional societies, and other supporters dedicated toward improving the postdoctoral experience. The NPA is a member-driven organization, with the work largely done through standing committees. Since its founding in 2003, the NPA has assumed a leadership role in addressing issues confronting the postdoctoral community that are national in scope, requiring action beyond the local level. Key alliances are being forged at all levels, and new standards and policies proposed by NPA are being considered and adopted by federal agencies and research institutions throughout the United States. For more information, visit