Drs Prashant Kumta (top) and José-Alain Sahel (bottom)Two McGowan affiliated faculty members were recently elected as fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Both Prashant N. Kumta, PhD (pictured top) and José-Alain Sahel, MD (pictured bottom) have been named among 162 renowned academic inventors.

Dr. Kumta is the Edward R. Weidlein Endowed Chair Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering and School of Dental Medicine and professor in the Departments of BioEngineering, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and Oral Biology. Dr. Sahel is chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the UPMC Eye Center, and the Eye and Ear Foundation Endowed Chair of Ophthalmology.

Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. Academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow status have been nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.

“Drs. Sahel and Kumta come from very different research fields, but they both share characteristics of illustrious Pitt innovators past and present,” said Evan Facher, Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Associate Dean for Commercial Translation at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

He continued, “They do not limit themselves to a single approach to solving a problem and they are committed to translating scientific discoveries into real-world products and services that make a difference in people’s lives.”

Dr. Kumta’s research focused on nanomaterials, which led to innovations in a wide variety of fields, including energy storage, tissue engineering, and biomaterials. He invented “NanoCaPs” – or nanostructured complexes – that are made of calcium phosphate. NanoCaPs have the ability to deliver plasmid genes and growth factors to promote bone regeneration, providing considerable relief to patients suffering from bone loss due to traumatic injury and diseases such as osteoporosis and bone cancer.

Dr. Kumta has 42 patents, and many of his innovations have been licensed to companies, such as: Changs Ascending Enterprise Company; Biobone LLC; Formabone Inc.; InCube Labs; the National Energy Technology Laboratory; and Flexcellz Inc.

Dr. Sahel’s work focuses on vision restoration. He has developed several interventions— including stem cell implantation, gene therapy, innovative pharmacologic approaches, and retinal prostheses—for retinitis pigmentosa, other retinal dystrophies, age-related macular degeneration, and other vision impairments that currently are untreatable, such as Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.

Dr. Sahel has more than 40 patents globally, and many have been licensed to companies, several of which have led to start-up companies including Fovea Pharmaceuticals, which Dr. Sahel co-founded and was later was acquired by Sanofi Aventis. He also is a scientific co-founder of GenSight Biologics Inc.; Pixium Vision Inc.; Tilak Healthcare; Chronolife; Prophesee; Sparing Vision; SharpEye; Vegavect; Avista; and Tenpoint.

When asked about this year’s inductees, Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, FNAI, President of the NAI, said, “This year’s class of NAI Fellows showcases the caliber of researchers that are found within the innovation ecosystem. Each of these individuals are making significant contributions to both science and society through their work.”

The Fellows Induction Ceremony will be held at the 2024 Annual Conference in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

Congratulations Drs. Sahel and Kumta!

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Innovation Institute

National Academy of Inventors