CALS biochemist among UW scientists honored for records of invention

Four University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty members — Hector DeLuca, James Dahlberg, Thomas Lipo and Max Lagally — are among 101 innovators elected to the charter class of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Election to NAI is a distinction accorded to “academic inventors who have demonstrated a highly 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,” according to a prepared statement from the academy.

Image: National Academy of Inventors logo

Together, the four scientists have some 200 active U.S. patents, among them derivative compounds of vitamin D used to combat osteoporosis and other diseases, variable speed drive technology used in power electronics, and diagnostic applications of microRNAs, small fragments of RNA that help govern gene function.

“The election of these four Wisconsin scientists to this inaugural group is a testament not only to the quality of our faculty, but to their entrepreneurial spirit,” says Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the nonprofit foundation that manages patenting and licensing on behalf of UW-Madison. “These individuals have put their discoveries to work for the benefit of society and their inventions have contributed significantly to quality of life and economic development in Wisconsin.”

DeLuca is professor emeritus of biochemistry and one of the world’s experts on the function of vitamin D and its metabolism. Using a broader measure than NAI’s count, DeLuca has more than 1,800 U.S. and foreign issued and filed patents. His inventions have earned hundreds of millions of dollars for the benefit of inventors and the university over the past 30 years.

Dahlberg, an emeritus professor of biomolecular chemistry who has served as interim chief executive officer of the Morgridge Institute for Research, is a leader in RNA biology and studies the synthesis, transport and function of RNA.

Lagally is a professor of materials science and engineering. Among other things, he is known for his research on the nanoscale properties of surfaces, interfaces and thin films, and the development of advanced instrumentation for research.

Lipo, an emeritus professor of electrical and computer engineering, is an authority in the areas of power electronics, adjustable speed drives, and electric machines.

NAI is a nonprofit organization comprised of 45 U.S. and international universities and nonprofit research institutes. Founded in 2010, it recognizes and encourages academic invention and seeks to encourage the development of technology in the interest of society.