Two University of Arizona Faculty Named Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Dr. James Wyant and Dr. Marvin J. Slepian (Photos courtesy of Dr. James Wyant and Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona, respectively)

TUCSON, Ariz. – University of Arizona inventors Dr. Marvin J. Slepian of the Colleges of Medicine and Engineering, and Dr. James Wyant of the College of Optical Sciences have been elected as Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction granted 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.

Marvin J. Slepian, M.D.

Along with being an experienced entrepreneur-inventor, Dr. Slepian is a professor of medicine (cardiology) and professor and associate department head of biomedical engineering in the UA College of Engineering, as well as McGuire Scholar in the Eller College of Management, where he teaches an annual course on Innovation.

Most recently, in collaboration with Tech Launch Arizona – the office of the UA that commercializes the inventions stemming from University research – Dr. Slepian started the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation (ACABI) to serve as a “creativity engine’” as Slepian calls it - a hub where investigators can work with experienced innovators to flesh out ideas and invent, strategize next steps in technology development, and access scientific and business resources to move their ideas forward.    

”It is truly an honor to be recognized by the National Academy of Inventors,” says Dr. Slepian. “Invention is seeing – envisioning what can be, where we can go, how to improve -  leading to innovation.  I look forward, based on this recognition, to continue to spark creativity in our students to empower their ingenuity for the future.” 

His lab has successfully translated a wide variety of concepts from bench to bedside, having developed therapeutic solutions based on polymeric biomaterials, such as drug-eluting stent technologies, tissue “paving,” stent coatings, tissue sealants as well as cardiovascular prosthetic devices including the total artificial heart. Dr. Slepian is a named inventor on 52 issued patents and applications, and is a co-founder of SynCardia Systems, the company that brought the total artificial heart to market. He has commercialized a range of inventions and founded other medical device companies including Focal (NASDAQ), Hansen Medical (NASDAQ), Arsenal, 480 BioMedical and MC10.  Dr. Slepian is an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and current president of the International Society for Mechanical Circulatory Support.

James Wyant, Ph.D.

Dr. Wyant is a professor emeritus of optical sciences and electrical and computer engineering, and is the founding dean of the UA College of Optical Sciences. He has over 300 publications and invited talks, and is widely recognized as an expert in the fields of interference, diffraction and optical testing. He is a pioneer in the fields of phase shifting interferometry, multiple wavelength interferometry, vertical scanning interferometry and holography, and is a named inventor on 10 patents.

Dr. Wyant co-founded a number of companies, including Wyant Measurement Systems, WYKO Corporation and 4D Technology.

He has received numerous awards, including the SPIE Governor’s award, the R&D 100 award, the OSA Joseph Fraunhoffer award, and the SPIE Gold Medal award, and he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He served as the dean of the College of Optical Sciences from 2005 until 2012.

 “I am very pleased to receive this honor,” says Wyant. “I wish that during the early years of my career I had realized the importance of patents. Often we do not file for a patent because at the time of the invention, the invention is not useful, but it is hard to predict the future and in a few years this invention may become very useful and important and the patent can become extremely valuable.”

About the National Academy of Inventors

The 168 named this year bring the total number of NAI Fellows to 582, representing more than 190 prestigious research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutions. The 2015 Fellows account for more than 5,300 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 20,000. These academic luminaries have made a significant impact to the economy through innovative discoveries, creating startup companies, and enhancing the culture of academic invention. 

Included among all NAI Fellows are more than 80 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes, 310 members of the other National Academies (NAS, NAE, NAM), 27 inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 32 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation and U.S. National Medal of Science, 27 Nobel Laureates, 14 Lemelson-MIT prize recipients, 170 AAAS Fellows, and 98 IEEE Fellows, among other awards and distinctions. 

The NAI Fellows will be inducted on April 15, 2016, as part of the Fifth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Va. USPTO Commissioner for Patents Andrew Hirshfeld will provide the keynote address for the induction ceremony.

The academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow were 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.

The 2015 NAI Fellows Selection Committee included 17 members, comprising NAI Fellows, recipients of U.S. National Medals, National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, members of the National Academies and senior officials from the USPTO, Association of American Universities, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of University Technology Managers, and National Inventors Hall of Fame.

- written by Paul Tumarkin
Paul Tumarkin