The National Academy of Inventors has named four University of Arizona faculty researchers among its 83-member 2022 class of Senior Members. NAI Senior Members are widely regarded as the world’s top emerging academic inventors. The UArizona resarchers are Dr. Steven Goldman of the College of Medicine – Tucson; Stanley Pau, Ph.D., professor in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences and the College of Engineering; Robin Polt, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Medicine – Tucson, the College of Pharmacy and the College of Science; and Judith Su, Ph.D., also a professor in the Wyant College. Drs. Goldman, Polt and Su are also members of the UArizona BIO5 Institute.
NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists, and administrators from NAI Member Institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation in producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. They also have growing success in patents, licensing, and commercialization, while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.
NAI Member Institutions, including the UArizona, are recognized as innovation powerhouses that continuously promote and foster the spirit of innovation.
“It’s exciting to see UArizona faculty recognized by this honor each year,” said Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), the office of the university that works with researchers to commercialize inventions stemming from UArizona innovation. “It’s a clear indicator that not only is the UArizona a leader in cutting-edge research and innovation, but that we have a growing cultural and institutional focus on generating impact from those discoveries and achievements.”
In total, the 2022 class of NAI Senior Members hails from 41 research universities. They are named inventors on over 1093 issued U.S. patents.
Dr. Steven Goldman, A Beating Heart Patch
Dr. Goldman holds the C. Leonard Pfeiffer Endowed Chair as a professor of medicine in the UArizona Sarver Heart Center. His team created a bioengineered patch to implant on damaged hearts. The patch is embedded with human neonatal fibroblasts and seeded with human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. In vivostudies have shown that the patch creates new heart tissue, improves heart function, and increases blood flow.
Dr. Goldman worked with TLA to patent the technology on behalf of the UArizona and launch a startup – Avery Therapeutics – in 2014 to commercialize the technology. He started the company with his previous mentee and UArizona alumnus, Jordan Lancaster, Ph.D., who is also a Senior Member of the NAI.
As a Navy physician with the Marine Corps, Dr. Goldman served in Vietnam with the First Marine Division in 1970-71. Dr. Goldman was the Chief of Cardiology at the Tucson VA for over 35 years. His laboratory studies cell-based therapies to treat heart failure.
“It is an honor for me to be recognized,” Goldman said, “but I have to give credit to the University of Arizona and the Tucson VA Medical Center for enabling me to get the work done that is the basis for being recognized as an NAI Senior Member.”
Stanley Pau, Fiber Optic Switching
Stanley Pau, Ph.D., is a professor of optical sciences and electrical and computer engineering. His research focuses on advancing novel imaging instruments and techniques, lasers, and optical spectroscopy. He is currently developing applications in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and has worked with TLA on the commercialization of inventions that advance the field, such as systems for holographic imaging. His research and development work in next-generation optical devices has been continuously funded by industry, and has led to multiple inventions including integrated ciruit and microchip fabrication, and fiber optic switching, the latter being a foundational technology enabling the modern internet.
Prior to coming to the UArizona, Pau worked for a variety of companies and research institutions, including Bell Labs, the Max Planck Institute of Solid State Research, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California Medical Center, I.B.M., and National Semiconductor, and has consulted for Honeywell, Alcatel Lucent, Canon and others in areas of optics and spectroscopy. He is a co-inventor on over 70 patents, a Fellow of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) and Optica (formerly the Optical Society of America), and is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, better known as the IEEE.
“I am thankful to become a member of NAI and be recognized for my inventions made during my years working in industry and academia,” Pau said. “It is a great honor. I am lucky to work at the University of Arizona who supports inventors to file and commercialize their patents.”
His research has been funded by industry as well as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, DARPA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). He continues to mentor students, postdoctoral researchers, and other research scientists and has worked on 13 patent applications with students and others as co-inventors.
Robin Polt, Brain-Penetrating Drugs
Dr. Robin Polt is a professor and research scientist with appointments in Pharmacy and Toxicology and is a founding member of the BIO5 Institute. His research focuses on molecules involved in chronic and neuropathic pain, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Parkinson’s, and vascular dementia. This work has given rise to “glycopeptide drugs” for the treatment of numerous diseases and syndromes. He gave them this name because they use the brain’s own hormones and neurotransmitters to be converted into brain-penetrating drugs.
Intellectual property emerging from Dr. Polt’s lab has led to the launch of several startups. GlycoSurf produces environmentally friendly glycolipid-based surfactants based on methodologies that the Polt lab developed and the startup licensed from the university. ProNeurogen is commercializing the first drug, which uses a proprietary brain penetrating hormone, for a form of Alzheimer’s disease called vascular dementia. He is currently working with Tech Launch Arizona on the launch of another startup aiming to commercialize treatments for stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and Parkinson’s Disease.
As a mentor, Polt has trained hundreds of undergraduates and Master’s students, and more than 20 of his students have earned their Ph.D. in his lab. Students he has mentored have gone on to take leadership positions at government agencies such as the FBI and FDA; at companies like Roche, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Gilead, Merck and Pfizer; and at academic institutions such as BYU, USC and Columbia University.
“It is so gratifying to be recognized today for the application of my ‘crazy ideas’ that I had more than 20 years ago,” Polt said. “I hope this will encourage younger inventors to endure, even if your best ideas are not immediately recognized.”
Judith Su, Optical Sensors for Life Sciences
Judith Su, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of optical sciences and biomedical engineering, and a member of the BIO5 Institute at the UArizona. She is a member of the board of scientific counselors for the National Institutes of Occupational Health, sits on the editorial advisory board of the journal Translational Biophotonics, and is a member of Optica.
Her work has brought more than $5 million in research to the UArizona and focuses on the development of optical sensors for medical diagnostics and prognostics, environmental monitoring, and basic science research. She has developed a technique known as FLOWER (Frequency Locked Optical Whispering Evanescent Resonator) that can detect single large molecules called “macromolecules” without the use of tags such as fluorescent molecules or quantum dots. The technique allows for the diagnosis of a variety of diseases at their earliest stages by analyzing the biomarkers in a drop of blood, saliva, tears, and urine. FLOWER was named one of the top accomplishments in optics by Optics & Photonics News in 2016. Su has received funding from the NSF, NIH, the Department of Defense, and the Flinn Foundation, among others.
She continues to mentor students at all levels, from high school to postdoctoral researchers. Her work has resulted in 5 granted U.S. patents, all of which have been licensed to Femtorays Technologies, and she has submitted two patent applications at the UArizona with students and postdoctoral researchers in her lab.
“Personally, I appreciate the support from the community of inventors, especially Jim Wyant who nominated me,” Su said. “Professionally, my inventions now form the foundation of my research and are licensed to a company to bring these products to benefit society. I am grateful for this recognition.”
This year’s class also reflects NAI’s dedicated efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in its membership, with the addition of 40 outstanding academic female and/or minority inventors. The 2022 new Senior Members will be inducted at the Senior Member Ceremony at the 11th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors this upcoming June 14-15 in Phoenix, Arizona.