Justin Burns, Ph.D.

Vice President, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Justin Burns leads GRA’s efforts to turn university inventions into products and companies.  In this role, he sets strategic objectives, manages a multi-million-dollar portfolio of grants and loans, and counsels Georgia’s university scientists in their journey of launching companies around their inventions. His career arc bears resemblance to the program itself: Justin first worked as a bench scientist conducting basic and application-focused research, and published more than a dozen peer-reviewed articles,  then moved to the business side of science, completing highly successful tenures in both company formation and growth as well as an early-stage investor in university-developed technologies.

Justin joined GRA in 2024 from Morningside, a Boston-based, global life science investment firm. As a member of the venture investment team, he conducted rigorous due diligence on early-stage companies, negotiated and closed new financings and provided counsel to startups throughout their early development, including to those seeking to license technologies from universities. Additionally, Justin served as a director on the boards of five life-science and healthcare startups and as a board observer for three others.

Previously, Justin spent five years in the Office of Technology Transfer at Emory University. As assistant director of licensing, he managed several teams in their efforts to bring new therapeutics, software, diagnostics and other technologies to market. He also negotiated and executed nearly two dozen licensing agreements, improved tech transfer processes and helped position innovations for spinout and subsequent venture capital investment. His time as assistant director was preceded by two and a half years negotiating and executing numerous contracts and managing a portfolio of 300+ technologies and invention disclosures.

Immediately after earning a Ph.D. in molecular biology and biochemistry from Georgia Tech, Justin began his career as a National Research Council Fellow at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., investigating microbial bio-electrochemical systems designed for use as alternative fuel strategies for the U.S. Navy. He also conducted research on several novel technologies that had application to the U.S. defense industry. Justin left NRL in 2013 to work as a senior postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Emily Weinert at Emory University, exploring how bacteria establish infections both in humans and in plants.

In addition to his. Ph.D., Justin has a B.S. degree in applied biology from Georgia Tech and holds a Certificate of Adaptive Leadership from Georgia State University. 

 Justin  Burns, Ph.D., Vice President, Innovation & Entrepreneurship