Five Tufts Faculty Named National Academy of Inventors Senior Members

Researchers from across the university received the prestigious honor, which recognizes academic inventors who aspire to make a positive impact on society 

Five Tufts faculty have been named as senior members of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), a prestigious recognition awarded to academic inventors who are rising leaders in their respective fields and who have produced technologies that have brought or aspire to bring a positive impact on society.

The mission of the NAI is to encourage academic inventors and raise awareness of academic technology and innovation with the goal of “expanding the invention community and celebrating creativity within the academic ecosystem.”

This year’s senior members from Tufts are Ayse Asatekin, Alexei Degterev, Philip Haydon, Krishna Kumar, and Charles Shoemaker, whose fields range across infectious disease, neuroscience, biology, chemistry, and engineering. They will be inducted at the 12th NAI Annual Meeting in June in Washington, D.C.

“The noteworthy translational research and enterprise efforts from these five Tufts faculty make them worthy additions to the NAI,” said Bernard Arulanandam, vice provost for research at Tufts. “To have five Tufts faculty bestowed with this honor is a testament to the strength and quality of the research capacities at Tufts.”

Ayse Asatekin, associate professor and Steve and Kristen Remondi Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the School of Engineering, focuses her research on designing novel membranes for water treatment, pollutant removal, bioseparations, and energy-efficient filtration processes. She also works on novel polymers for other applications through interdisciplinary collaborations, including for microfluidic devices, wound dressings, anti-fouling coatings, and energy storage devices. 

At Tufts since 2012, she and her group have developed novel, highly fouling-resistant membranes that are being commercialized by ZwitterCo, Inc., a start-up spun out of Tufts; she serves as its Senior Scientific Advisor. Before that, she also co-founded Clean Membranes, Inc., which focused on membranes she developed during her doctoral work.

Alexei Degterev, associate professor in the Department of Developmental, Molecular and Chemical Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine, investigates the molecular mechanisms of regulated cell death. These processes play critical roles during development and in maintaining health, such as helping eliminate infected or damaged cells. Changes in regulated cell death pathways lead to a variety of conditions, including cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases.

At Tufts since 2005, the major goal of his lab is to understand how key players in these pathways affect cell death under different circumstances, and to develop chemical probes and drug leads that can be used to therapeutically modulate cell death processes.

Philip Haydon, Annetta and Gustav Grisard Professor and Chair of Neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine, is a leader in the study of neuroglial interactions. His lab has published papers showing how glial cells change during epilepsy and how perturbing them in certain ways can limit the number of seizures. They focus on astrocytes (a type of glial cell), which wrap around the synaptic structure to control synapse formation and function. The goal of his lab is to identify the mechanisms by which astrocytes regulate synaptic transmission and their role in controlling behavior.

At Tufts since 2008, Haydon is currently on a mission to circumnavigate the globe on a 50-foot yacht to raise awareness and money for epilepsy research.

Krishna Kumar, the Robinson Professor of Chemistry at the School of Arts and Sciences, leads a program at the interface of chemistry, biology, and medicine.  His laboratory uses chemistry to design molecules to interrogate and illuminate fundamental mechanisms in biology, or to be used as therapeutics.

At Tufts since 1998, Kumar’s laboratory has made significant strides in the discovery of peptide antibiotics. Through molecular design, his lab has created a platform for the development of therapeutic molecules for chronic maladies such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, and for neurodegenerative indications such as traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s disease.  His laboratory has launched three startups from Tufts based research.

Charles Shoemaker, a professor in the Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, leads research in collaboration with other academic labs and commercial entities that focuses on the discovery of camelid single-domain antibody components (called nanobodies or VHHs) and their engineering into therapeutic biomolecules for treating a wide variety of diseases.

Since 2004 at Tufts, his lab initially performed research to develop therapeutic agents that prevent or reverse intoxication from bacterial toxins. This work then expanded to other toxins (e.g., Shiga toxins, C. difficile toxins, anthrax, ricin) and more recently to enteric pathogens and respiratory viruses. His goal is to continue contributing research outcomes that lead to improved prevention and therapy of veterinary and human diseases, particularly those most affecting the developing world.  

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