Breakfast of champions

Etched in glass: Congratulations to the 2019 Innovators of the Year.

Hundreds turn out to honor LI’s brightest innovators

(photos by Bob Giglione)

In a rare breakfast networker that delivered all the feels, Innovate Long Island saluted its 2019 Innovators of the Year Tuesday at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

2019 Master of Innovation Mitch Maiman

More than 200 guests turned out to honor two dozen of Long Island’s brightest and boldest researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs and executives, including 2019 Master of Innovation Mitch Maiman and Stony Brook University Vice President of Economic Development Yacov Shamash, first-ever recipient of the John L. Kominicki Legacy Award.

Shamash, who steps down April 1 after 18 years as SBU’s economic development guru, becomes the first-ever inductee into Innovate LI’s “hall of fame.” Maiman, the Intelligent Product Solutions founder and CEO, succeeds former National Grid/Keyspan Chairman Robert Catell (2017) and Ruskin Moscou Faltischek Senior Partner Michael Faltischek (2018) as Innovate LI Masters of Innovation.

Calling Innovate Long Island “a really valuable tool for the local technology world,” Maiman credited his Master of Innovation honor to the Intelligent Product Solutions staff of engineers and designers.

“People think I’m an innovator – great,” Maiman told the audience. “But it’s really our team that’s the strength of our company.

“A publication like Innovate Long Island really glues things together and really brings a focus to Long Island’s technology community,” he added. “We’re really pleased to tell our stories through Innovate Long Island.”

Yacov Shamash, first winner of the John L. Kominicki Legacy Award

Faltischek, who took the podium to introduce his longtime friend Shamash, noted the Kominicki Legacy Award winner “turned down Oxford to find his way here” – and cited Shamash’s creation of such thriving development hubs as the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center and the Long Island High Technology Incubator as proof-positive of his lasting effects.

Shamash, in turn, thanked his “wonderful team” at Stony Brook University, particularly Vice President for Research Richard Reeder and Director of Technology, Licensing and Industry Relations Peter Donnelly, who will be assuming Shamash’s administrative duties.

Under their leadership, “Stony Brook will continue to innovate,” he told the audience.

“We have a wonderful group of companies – about 70 companies at any one time,” Shamash said. “And that, together with what’s going on at the other institutions on Long Island, will be the engine for growth in the area.”

As for his own future, the outgoing VP suggested his contributions to the SBU business-development ecosystem weren’t done yet.

“I’m getting the best job an any university campus,” Shamash deadpanned. “Full professor, with tenure.”

Other 2019 Innovators of the Year include:


Marlene McDonnell, Aaron Foss


  • Old friend (and 2015 Innovator of the Year) Aaron Foss, whose uber-successful robocall blocker Nomorobo has hurtled past the 1 billion-calls-blocked plateau
  • Harry Aurora, CEO if Jericho-based iTutor, a 2013 startup offering online tutoring and standardized-testing prep assistance for K-12 students
  • The Montalbano brothers, big thinkers behind cutting-edge Smithtown-based innovator MIDI Medical Product Development



(From left) Bob Catell, Yacov Shamash, James Hayward


  • Legendary Feinstein Institute researcher Betty Diamond, responsible in 2018 for multiple publications and breakthroughs in her relentless investigation of lupus
  • Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Professor Renee Pekmezaris, who’s exploring home-telehealth options specifically for Spanish-speaking patients
  • Stony Brook-based iCell Gene Therapeutics, which works closely with China-based researchers on the development of “chimeric antigen receptor-engineered drug therapeutics” – including potential cancer treatments
  • James Hayward, president and CEO of Stony Brook-based Applied DNA Sciences, who scores his second Innovator of the Year Award (he won in 2015) for globalizing his company’s DNA-based security solutions


Lisa Abbey, Gregory Zeller


  • Lisa Abbey, the entrepreneurial founder of eco-friendly, travel-size beauty-products specialist Flygirl Beauty Brands
  • Steven Bofill, Brian Bofill and Brian Shimmerlik, the big brains behind Bethpage-based Vengo Labs and its next-generation personal-products vending machines
  • Chris Kane, creator of West Islip-based foodie-friendly loyalty app MunchMoney, which retooled its tech (and Long Island-focused strategy) and wound up launching nationally





McDonnell, Javier Izquierdo


  • StorEn, a client of Stony Brook University’s Clean Energy Business Incubation Program, which is advancing the clean-gen science of revolutionary vanadium-flow batteries
  • Allied Microbiata, a client of Stony Brook University’s Clean Energy Business Incubation Program, which battles environmental contamination with unique microbes and enzymes
  • Hofstra University Assistant Biology Professor Javier Izquierdo, a microbiologist looking to improve local plant health and turn agricultural waste into cutting-edge biofuels



(From left) Bruce McDonough, Margaret McDonough, Cynthia Colon


  • Margaret and Bruce McDonough, founders of health pet-food startup Talk Treats to Me
  • Valley Stream-based green thumbs Peyton and Melanie Marsh, proprietors of the City Leaf Farm, an indoor “vertical farming” enterprise
  • Taylor Knapp, founder of Peconic Escargot, Long Island’s first-ever snail farm


Zeller, Greg Demetriou


  • Garden City’s Cradle of Aviation Museum, honored for its 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo moon landing (and Long Island’s critical contributions)
  • LG Studios, the new Edgewood video-production mecca spearheaded by Lorraine Gregory Communications, Mirrorland Productions and the Drake Media Network
  • Ashley Heather, founder of iHamptons and The Spur, a rapidly expanding “private co-working and entrepreneur’s club” for East End entrepreneurs
  • The SnappyXO Design Innovation and Robotics Camp, a joint effort of the Plainview-based Composite Prototyping Center, Dix Hills-based Mechanismic Inc. and the Stony Brook University-based Manufacturing & Technology Resource Consortium


Young Innovators: The children (and Dr. Preminger, right) shall lead.

In addition to our first Kominicki Legacy award, 2019 marked our first-ever Young Innovator Awards, recognizing forward thinking and amazing creativity on behalf of Long Island high school and college/university students. This year’s inaugural class includes:

  • Half Hollow Hills High School East junior William Banai, who as a sophomore earned “Top 10 in the World” honors at the 2018 DECA International Career Development Conference
  • Danielle Kelly of the Friends Academy in Locust Valley and Audrey Shine of Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School, who teamed up to win the 2018 Spellman HV Electronics Clean Tech Competition
  • Jonathan Preminger, who as a third-year student at Hofstra/Northwell’s Zucker School of Medicine invented the ultraviolet-powered SteriLocker, a patented garment sterilizer
  • Unispan, Hofstra University’s student-run record label and a big part of the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which achieved several firsts in 2018


(From left) Anne Koestner, Terry Lynam, Adrienne Stoller

Corporate sponsors of the 2019 Innovator of the Year Awards include Applied DNA Sciences, Cameron Engineering & Associates, EisnerAmper, Farrell Fritz, LG Studios, Mazars USA, MIDI Medical Product Development, Nixon Peabody, Nomorobo, Northwell Health, Presberg Law, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek and Sahn Ward Coshignano.

Business-development sponsors include the Long Island Business Development Council and the Town of Islip’s Office of Economic Development.

Major university sponsors include Farmingdale State College, Hofstra University, the New York Institute of Technology, SUNY College at Old Westbury and Stony Brook University’s Clean Energy Business Incubator Program and Office of Economic Development.


Alon Kapen

McDonnell, Harry Aurora

Allan Cohen






Michael Sahn

(From left) McDonnell, Taylor Knapp, Zeller





(From left) McDonnell, Frana James, Raymond Sambrotto

William Banai, Zeller

Catell, McDonnell

Shamash, Donna Drake

Hayward (right), thinking bagel

(From left) Matt Stadler, Hana Zuric, Peter Donnelly

Team Hofstra

Richard Quatrano, Jared Sherman

McDonnell, Maiman


Shamash hears it from the crowd.