Reimagine the Future | Case Western Reserve University

Reimaginethe future

A Case Western Reserve University student wearing lab gloves places a specimen in a piece of equipment in the Swagelok Center.

Some of the individuals and ideas shaping what's next

Revolutionizing robotics

A startup that began in our campus innovation center now has secured more than $150M in support

Alex Lonsberry, left, and Andrew Lonsberry
Alex Lonsberry, left, and Andrew Lonsberry (Courtesy of Path Robotics)

Where do you turn to solve a problem like the looming shortage of skilled welders across the U.S.?

If you ask brothers Andrew (GRS '21, mechanical engineering) and Alex Lonsberry (CWR '09; GRS '12, mechanical engineering), the answer is the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box].

In 2018, the Lonsberrys turned to Case Western Reserve's open-access innovation center to bring their idea for a welding robot to life.

"The future of manufacturing hinges on highly capable robotics," said Andrew, now CEO of the brothers' startup Path Robotics, pointing to their company's state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision systems.

In just three years, their makerspace creation swiftly evolved to draw $56 million in investments in spring 2021 with another $100 million infusion in the summer—making it one of the most successful student startups to launch from CWRU.

"Without think[box]," said Alex, the company's CTO, "we wouldn't exist, period."

Bioengineering solutions

When a soldier suffers a traumatic injury on the battlefield, seconds count.

The sooner medics can stop the bleeding, the greater the chance of survival. Yet moving blood—or even just the platelets that cause clotting—requires special bags and treatment.

During the past academic year, Anirban Sen Gupta secured nearly $6 million in federal grants to find a solution.

The biomedical engineering professor first won support for an approach to overcome transportation obstacles: freeze-dried platelets. The challenge is to create a cooling process that keeps platelets' unique ability to slow or block bleeding.

Then, months later, Sen Gupta landed a second source of funding—this one for an even more ambitious idea: artificial platelets.

He and his team already have made major progress, and now are focused on including an analogue to a biological protein that is essential to stopping especially severe bleeding.

But these efforts are just the beginning. Sen Gupta's ultimate goal? Entirely synthetic blood.

"That's the Holy Grail we're trying to get to," he said.

#21 university in the world for U.S. utility patents with...

105 granted in calendar year 2020

Empowering nurse leaders

As a graduate student at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Marian Shaughnessy (NUR '85, '17) wrote a paper arguing that nurses needed to be more than facilitators of health care—they should be "leaders in their own right." Years later, that paper is changing lives—and creating leaders.

Last spring, nurse executives from around the world began a yearlong program to prepare them to assume even more influential roles within their profession. The program—made possible through a gift from Arnold Coldiron and his late wife, Wanda, and developed with three national organizations and the university's Weatherhead School of Management—is an initiative of the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy, which launched in 2018 with a $5 million gift from Marian and her husband, Michael.

Marian passed away a year before the new program began, but contributions to her legacy since have grown: In February, Michael and their daughters, Anne and Kate, committed $2.5 million to establish a permanent home for the academy in the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic.

16 nurse executives from around the world joined the inaugural cohort of the Coldiron Senior Nurse Executive program, which is part of the nursing school's Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy

"...our university must be a place that sparks innovation, as well as invention, and that applies our ideas to benefit society."

President Eric W. Kaler

A multimillion dollar startup, 17 years in the making

Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics and Distinguished University Professor Sanford 'Sandy' Markowitz
Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics and Distinguished University Professor Sanford "Sandy" Markowitz (David Petkiewicz/

In 2004, medical school faculty member Sanford Markowitz published a groundbreaking study regarding the role of a gene called 15-PGDH in suppressing colon cancer. Seventeen years later, a startup based on his work with that gene—but having nothing to do with cancer—sold for $55 million.

The company, Rodeo Therapeutics Corp., has advanced research that could be life-changing for individuals with colitis or patients recovering from surgery or transplants. And it inspired Amgen, an international biopharmaceutical company, to purchase the spinoff in March 2021—a deal that could carry additional payouts worth up to $721 million.

But the path from startup to sale was anything but straight. Through years of collaboration with researchers, including a University of Texa-Southwestern colleague and now Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Dean Stan Gerson, Markowitz and his team confirmed that the gene that inhibited malignant cells from spreading could also support the growth of healthy ones. Financial support from CWRU and University Hospitals' Harrington Discovery Institute contributed to Rodeo's launch and, finally, Amgen's acquisition.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with a world-class pharmaceutical company like Amgen, and to be able to benefit from its team of outstanding scientists and drug developers—as well as the company's financial resources—to speed the development of this promising new class of drugs," Markowitz said.

Alumnus's app simplifies college search—and creates connection

The first company John Knific (CWR '09) co-founded made it easier for performing arts students to share their talents with college admissions officers.

The second one, Wisr, supported colleges' efforts to connect with potential students—and for those students to find one another.

Their platform proved so successful that when COVID-19 upended every aspect of the admissions process, the company could quickly pivot to offer exceptional online enrollment and orientation programs. Revenue grew more than 300% in 2020 and, before long, consulting powerhouse EAB expressed interest; after the acquisition closed the following year, Knific became an EAB managing director.

For Knific, who conducted his own college search before enrolling at Case Western Reserve, the university's support for Wisr only confirmed the wisdom of his choice.

"Before we'd written a line of code for the software, [CWRU] agreed to become our first customer," Knific recalled. "It was a huge leap of faith."

Health Education Campus (Samson Pavilion and Dental Clinic)
Photo by Roger Mastroianni

$17M for next-generation health care as part of JobsOhio's Cleveland Innovation District

203 MD students matched at top residency programs throughout the U.S., with 22% remaining in Cleveland

400+ nursing students completed a new, CWRU-developed course on telehealth to improve patient care during the pandemic and beyond

4 CWRU dental residents who placed in the top 20 nationwide on an endodontics exam, including the highest scorer

The power of connection

If not for a core group of friends, Anthony Nunnery admits he probably wouldn't have finished college.

Instead, the New Orleans native earned bachelor's degrees in psychology and sociology last spring as part of Case Western Reserve's first class of Posse Scholars.

Through the program, the Posse Foundation partners communities and campuses in an innovative model designed to give promising urban students like Nunnery a greater chance to succeed. By sending young people from the same city to a single university, the foundation ensures they arrive with a peer support system already in place.

After Nunnery's "posse"—nine students who joined him at CWRU in 2017—helped him overcome his own early doubts, he soon was helping others, serving as a resident assistant and joining a campus group championing diversity.

He is now a social science researcher at CWRU and hopes to become a clinical psychologist who works with marginalized communities.

Vice President for Enrollment Management Rick Bischoff appreciates the mutually beneficial impact of partnering with Posse, but emphasizes an even more important outcome: "It's what they're going to do out there in the world," he said, "that"s going to be powerful."

Anthony Nunnery
Anthony Nunnery

Hailey Marshall
Hailey Marshall

Phuong Nguyen
Phuong Nguyen
Isabella Beninate
Isabella Beninate

Fatima Rahman
Fatima Rahman

Fernando Rivera
Fernando Rivera

Inventing opportunities

Lauren Butia was visiting her grandparents in Kenya when COVID-19 closed down Case Western Reserve's campus—and her summer internship.

After hearing about dozens of students like Butia suddenly without summer employment, Michael Goldberg, the Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship's executive director, began reaching out to alumni and others in his expansive network. All expressed empathy—and most were able to offer meaningful alternative internships.

Ultimately more than 100 students landed spots in Veale's Remote Entrepreneurship Project Program. Butia, for example, worked in marketing for Natalist, a South Carolina-based alumni startup that produces and sells fertility and pregnancy products.

"The coronavirus has had a terrible impact on the world," Goldberg said, "but it's also brought new opportunities like these internships that would not have happened otherwise."

Bianca Smith
Photo by Billie Weiss

A pioneer in the field

Trailblazing alumna becomes professional baseball's first Black woman coach

When Bianca Smith first visited Case Western Reserve, the prospective graduate student so impressed the university's baseball coach that he created a position for her within minutes of their first meeting

Eight years later, Matt Englander's protege is coaching for the Boston Red Sox—and making history.

As the first Black woman to land an on-field position in professional baseball, Bianca Smith (LAW '17, MGT '17) found herself featured in outlets from The New York Times to ABC News.

But all she really wants to do is contribute to the team.

"Being able to come in and make an immediate impact is what every coach wants to do, but not what every coach gets to do," Smith said. "I've been able to really find a place where I fit and figure out where I provide the most value to the organization."

President's Letter

President Kaler