TUCSON, Ariz. — The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has named 61 academic inventors to the 2021 class of NAI Senior Members. Among them are University of Arizona Health Sciences professors May Khanna, PhD, and Meredith Hay, PhD.
NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI Member Institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation-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.
The ability to nominate an individual for NAI Senior Member recognition is an exclusive opportunity afforded solely to NAI Member Institutions such as UArizona to recognize its outstanding innovators. These organizations themselves are widely regarded as innovation powerhouses that continuously promote and foster the spirit of innovation.
“As a driver of innovation at the center of an increasingly entrepreneurial and creative region of our nation, the University of Arizona is proud to have women like Drs. Khanna and Hay as members of our faculty,” 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. “They have not only excelled in their fields but have also made the commitment to be a part of the growing culture of innovators working to move their inventions into the public sphere to make a better world for all of us.”
Dr. Hay joined the UArizona Health Sciences faculty in 2008. She is a professor of physiology in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson and is a member of the BIO5 Institute, Sarver Heart Center and Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute. Internationally known for her work in cardiovascular neurobiology, Dr. Hay was one of the first scientists to look at the role of sex differences in the development of hypertension. Her studies helped establish guidelines to include gender differences in the treatment of high blood pressure.
Substantial evidence links increases in systemic inflammation to impaired cognitive function. In addition, scientific studies have linked early Alzheimer’s disease to inflammation in the brain. There are currently no effective treatments for inflammation-related brain disease and memory loss. In response to these needs, Dr. Hay’s research focuses on inflammation-related brain disease and the development of novel peptides to inhibit this inflammatory cascade and improve brain blood flow. These peptides act to inhibit the inflammatory pathways at both the level of brain blood vessels and the brain itself.
Dr. Hay worked with TLA to protect the technology and license it to ProNeurogen Inc., a biopharmaceutical startup she founded. The company’s goal is to develop drug therapies for preventing and treating cognitive impairment and pain caused by inflammation.
Her background includes training in chemistry, structural biology, biophysics and, more recently, drug discovery in neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. She joined the UArizona Health Sciences faculty in 2014.
Dr. Khanna’s research is aimed at shortening the time between drug discovery and pre-clinical testing by targeting key protein-protein and protein-RNA interactions in neurodegenerative diseases. With more than 20 years’ research experience in RNA, protein chemistry, molecular and structural biology and drug discovery, she is focused on accelerating the development of novel therapeutics.
Khanna is the founder of Regenerix, LLC where she is moving forward compounds for therapeutics to treat neurodegenerative diseases. She is also the co-founder of Cliacept, Inc., a predominantly minority women-owned company, founded by the first cohort of students from her innovative course, “Designing Drugs: From Chemistry to Cure.”
She is working with TLA to commercialize compounds they have developed for neurodegenerative therapies and plans to license many of them.
About NAI Senior Members
This latest class of NAI Senior Members represents 36 research universities, government, and non-profit research institutes. They are named inventors on more than 600 issued U.S. patents.
“NAI Member Institutions support some of the most elite innovators on the horizon. With the NAI Senior Member award distinction, we are recognizing innovators who are rising stars in their fields and the innovative ecosystems that support their work,” said Paul R. Sanberg, NAI President. “This new class is joining a prolific group of academic visionaries already defining tomorrow.”
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Photos available upon request.
About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).