Two notable UNC scientists — Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 and Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies — have been named charter fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, a nonprofit organization that recognizes investigators who translate their research findings into inventions that may benefit society.
Inductees of this prestigious group are recognized for demonstrating a spirit of innovation and helping bring to market inventions that make a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. The 98 innovators represent 54 universities and nonprofit research institutes. Together, they hold more than 3,200 U.S. patents.
Smithies received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2007 for discoveries that laid the foundation for today’s research into gene therapy. Fifty-eight years ago, he invented starch gel electrophoresis, a discovery that allowed researchers to separate proteins, RNA and DNA quickly and easily. He holds six U.S. patents, is a member of the National Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Science, has received the Albert Lasker Award, and is a fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At UNC, he is the Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor of pathology and laboratory medicine.
Under Thorp’s leadership, UNC launched “Innovate@Carolina: Important Ideas for a Better World,” a roadmap for innovation in science, business, medicine, nonprofits and academia. He serves on the president’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which held its first national forum in Chapel Hill. He co-authored Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century, a UNC Press book that makes the case for the pivotal role of research universities as agents of societal change. Royalties support innovation at UNC.
Thorp holds 12 U.S. patents and co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, which is developing drugs for prostate cancer and fungal infections.
Included in the charter class are eight Nobel laureates, two fellows of the Royal Society, 12 presidents of research universities and nonprofit research institutes, 50 members of the national academies, 11 inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, three recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, four recipients of the National Medal of Science and 29 American Association for the Advancement of Science fellows, among recipients of other awards and distinctions.
Thorp and Smithies will be inducted by the U.S. commissioner for patents, Margaret Focarino, during the second annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors Feb. 22 at the University of South Florida Research Park in Tampa.
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