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Eshelman Innovation

Eshelman Innovation launches video series

“North Carolina Innovators You Should Know” spotlights the brilliant minds and trailblazers driving progress and shaping the future.

Brianna Vickerman still remembers her graduate school dancing-in-the-lab moment.

While researching light-activated therapeutics, a potentially groundbreaking way to make drug delivery safer and more effective, Vickerman kept failing at activating a particular peptide using light. Peptides, molecules containing two or more amino acids, play an essential role in fundamental physiological processes.

“That was a moment when you think to yourself, ‘This has never been done before. Maybe there’s a reason why,’” said the Eshelman Innovation Research Assistant Professor during the inaugural episode of “North Carolina Innovators You Should Know,” a video series hosted by Eshelman Innovation Executive Director John Bamforth.

“I stepped back and looked at the problem in a different way. I looked into the origins of this peptide. It’s actually naturally synthesized in honeybees,” she said.

By considering not just what the peptide does, but what it was originally made to do, Vickerman overcame the hurdle by devising a different strategy for synthesizing a version that was light activatable. Then came the dancing.

Thank you to UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media for filming this interview at the Curtis Media Center.

Eshelman Innovation Research Assistant Professor Brianna Vickerman spoke with Eshelman Innovation Executive Director John Bamforth.

Vickerman is one of countless innovators across the state. North Carolina, home to world-class universities, receives nearly $13 billion each year in academic and industry research and development funding, putting it second among the states in R&D. Yet according to the North Carolina Innovation Index, the state falls behind in commercializing its R&D.

Eshelman Innovation, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2024, is helping change that by translating great ideas into healthcare products and services.

Through its new video series, Eshelman Innovation introduces viewers to its own innovators and those at other institutions and companies.

“A rich ecosystem of innovation exists in North Carolina,” Bamforth says. “This video series shines a light on trailblazers across the state.”

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