Inventor of the Year

Congratulations to the 2017 Inventors of the Year!

​Two UW scientists will be recognized for their collaborative work inventing the NIFTY Cup.

Christy McKinney, Ph.D., MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Craniofacial Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Oral Health Sciences at the University of Washington. She is also an investigator in the Seattle Children's Research Institute's Center for Child health, Behavior and Development, and part of the Seattle Children's Hospital Craniofacial Center.


November 14, 2017

5:00-7:30 PM

UW Medicine at SLU

850 Republican Street

Seattle, WA 98109

Her research interests are focused on craniofacial and dental health and feeding in young children. Her research projects include environmental exposures from dental treatment in children, environmental risk factors for oral clefts, and feeding in infants with breastfeeding difficulties. Her global research collaborations involve partners in Thailand, India, and Ghana.

​Michael Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Division Chief of Craniofacial Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Biological Structure, Oral Biology and Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Washington. At Seattle Children's Hospital he is the Medical Director of the Craniofacial Center and the Jean Renny Endowed Chair in Craniofacial Medicine.

His clinical interests focus on the diagnosis and long-term interdisciplinary care of children with craniofacial malformations, with particular interest in craniosynostosis. He is co-investigator on several research projects on craniosynostosis and other craniofacial conditions ranging from cell biology, genomics, epidemiology and childhood development. Dr. Cunningham co-founded Partners in African Cleft Training (PACT) in Africa to create self-sustaining programs to treat cleft lip and palate.

The Nifty Cup development was sprearheaded by Dr. McKinney and inspired by the PACT program directed by Dr. Cunningham. The NIFTY Cup was developed in collaboration with Dr. Patricia Coffey at PATH and a multidisciplinary team from UW, Seattle Children's, PATH, and Laerdal Global Health. The NIFTY Cup has the potential to help 15 million infants who are born with breastfeeding difficulties each year worldwide.

The School of Medicine invites colleagues and friends to join us in honoring these two outstanding scientists and celebrate the spirit of innovation at UW Medicine!

Criteria & Selection Process

Each year the Inventor of the Year Selection Committee solicits nominations from Department Chairs and Administrators. Nominations are then reviewed based on the following criteria:

  • Number of lives saved or improved.
  • Biomedical impact of the invention.
  • ​Contribution to the bioscience sector.
  • Contributions to the UW CoMotion mission to extend the impact of University of Washington research through the creation of partnerships that encourage investment in innovation.
  • Contributions to UW School of Medicine faculty community.

Previous Award Winners

The Inventor of the Year Awards honor outstanding UW research scientists whose innovations have had a major, positive effect on both healthcare and our local economy. The 2016 Inventor of the Year Awards honored Samuel R. Browd, M.D., Ph.D., Jonathan Posner, Ph.D., and Per Reinhall, Ph.D. recognized for their collaborative work inventing and developing a football helmet designed to mitigate the forces thought to contribute to concussions. They join many other exemplary research scientists also honored with an Inventor of the Year Award. 

See the complete list of Inventor of the Year Award recipients since 2004: Inventor of the Year 2017-2004 (PDF)​​

See a complete list of Lifetime Innovators whose legacy impacts future generations of research: Lifetime Innovators thru 2015 (PDF)


If you have any questions about the 2016 Inventor of the Year Awards please contact Meris Mullaley at or 206.221.5807.​​