Holden Thorp’s Legacy Of Innovation Lives On In Chapel Hill

By Rachel Nash Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:51 am

Pictured: Holden Thorp, Carol Folt, James Moeser

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Emeritus Holden Thorp has taken on his new role as Provost at Washington University in St. Louis, but his influence at Carolina lives on through initiatives he began during his time in Chapel Hill.

Under Thorp’s leadership, UNC launched Innovate@Carolina. The program works to strengthen Carolina’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, helping to translate ideas into ventures that will make an impact on the community.

Thorp also served on the President’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which held its first national forum in Chapel Hill, and co-authored “Engines of Innovation — The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century.”

Chancellor Carol Folt took over as the University’s leader on July 1 and has praised her predecessor during her first month at the helm.

“There’s also, clearly, a very powerful culture of entrepreneurship and innovation here already. I think it is wonderful that the board is focusing on that. It is flourishing, too, thanks in part to groundbreaking research done by Chancellor Thorp’s innovation circle,” Folt said to UNC Board of Trustees last week.

Echoing similar sentiments, UNC Professor of Chemistry Joe DeSimone, also the Director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and a Professor of Chemical Engineering at N.C.State, told the Board that the University has to maintain a presence nationally through research initiatives and economic development.

“When you look at job growth, and it is what this state needs, job growth emanates from start-up companies. All the data supports it,” DeSimone said. He added that, “…it is not only the start-ups, but it is the conversion and the translation from start-ups to manufacturing. We have to keep that chain from the beginning all the way through to manufacturing, and we have to do that in this state.”

A business man himself, Thorp holds 12 issued U.S. patents and co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, which develops drugs for prostate cancer and fungal infections. In 2012, Thorp was selected a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, a nonprofit organization that recognizes investigators who translate their research findings into inventions to benefit society, according to his biography on the University’s website.

Continuing Thorp’s vision for UNC, the Trustees’ new chairman, Lowry Caudill, outlined four goals for the board this year: to transition Folt into her new role, to improve risk management, to build relationship with external constituencies, and to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Thorp also broke ground through ushering in a new era of improved town-gown relations in the community, something Folt said she will take pride in continuing.

“I feel very happy and lucky to be inheriting a very strong town and gown relationship. That is something that I know is important to everybody and something that is important to me,” Folt said.

Before Thorp departed for St. Louis, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt presented him with a key to the Town.

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