UArizona Professors Elected into the National Academy of Inventors

Dec. 8, 2020

Robert Norwood and Laurence Hurley have been elected as fellows of the academy, the organization's most prestigious designation.

TUCSON, Ariz. – University of Arizona faculty members Robert A. Norwood and Laurence Hurley have been elected as fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

Norwood is a professor in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences. Hurley is a professor in the College of Pharmacy and a member of the UArizona Cancer Center and BIO5 Institute.

The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a 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.

Election as an NAI fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. To date, NAI fellows hold more than 42,700 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 13,000 licensed technologies and companies, and created more than 36 million jobs. In addition, over $2.2 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI fellow discoveries.

The 2020 class of fellows represents 115 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide. They collectively hold over 4,700 issued U.S. patents.

The new fellows will be inducted at NAI's annual meeting in Tampa, Florida, in June.

A total of 11 inventors from the University of Arizona have been elected fellows since Tech Launch Arizona – the UArizona office that commercializes inventions stemming from research – got its start in 2013, said Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of TLA.

"The university continues to demonstrate that we have created a fertile, supportive environment for academic inventors," he said. "We're proud of Professor Hurley's and Professor Norwood's innovations and work with TLA. We look forward to continuing that collaboration to grow the impact of their innovative work."

"This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Norwood and Dr. Hurley, who have distinguished themselves internationally and dedicated themselves to the pursuit of innovative solutions to significant challenges in communications technology and pharmaceutical science," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "I am very proud of the university's representation among NAI fellows, which demonstrates our commitment to exploration, one of our core values."

Robert Norwood

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Robert Norwood
Photo credit: Amee Hennig Robert Norwood

Norwood is an accomplished innovator and inventor, focused on furthering the understanding and performance of advanced materials for photonics and electronics applications. He spent the first 15 years of his career in research and development, working for Fortune 50 companies as well as small technology startups. 

He holds 40 U.S. patents, 10 of which have been licensed to companies for commercialization. He also started his own companies, NorCon Technologies and Photon-X.

Norwood is a world expert in polymer integrated photonics, having published seven book chapters and 178 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and has delivered more than 80 invited presentations at international conferences. He has served as an associate editor of Optica, Optical Materials Express and IEEE Photonics Technology Letters and chaired the Optical Society Fellows Committee. He is a fellow of the Optical Society and SPIE and was honored as an Arizona Innovator of the Year, in the academia category, in 2017. 

The next generation of internet technologies will require new, low-cost, high-performance photonic materials for data communication and computing, and Norwood has a long history of developing polymer-based integrated photonics technologies, based both on passive optical polymers and, more recently, advanced nonlinear optical polymers that provide the capability for ultrahigh-speed communication and switching. His innovations have impacted major industrial sectors, including telecommunications, semiconductors and the cloud infrastructure.

At the College of Optical Sciences, Norwood and his team focus on providing the photonics community with practical devices based on photonic designer materials that can meet the needs of next-generation networks. They have received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Air Force Research Lab, the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and major corporations, among other entities. 

"I am deeply honored on my election to the rank of NAI fellow," Norwood said. "The difficult times we are all experiencing abundantly demonstrate the crucial role of innovation in our world, and I am humbled to be included in this organization of extraordinary inventors. I thank my family for always supporting me in my innovation journey, and my father – whose patent on a yellow pigment was the first patent I ever saw – for inspiring me to pursue a life in science and technology."

Laurence Hurley

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Laurence Hurley
Laurence Hurley

Hurley is a world leader in the development of G-quadruplexes as drug targets. His work has led to two first-in-class cancer drugs,which have entered phase one and phase two clinical trials (Quarfloxin and CX5461). He also defined the mechanism of action of four other drugs introduced into clinical trials.

Hurley holds 18 patents in the field of medicinal chemistry, nine of which have been licensed.

Technology licensed from patents awarded to Hurley have resulted in the creation of four companies: Cyternex/Cyclene in 2001, Montigen and Tetragene in 2003, and Reglagene in 2016. Cyternex/Cylene raised a total of $120 million, created over 30 jobs, and brought oncology drugs successfully through clinical trials. 

He has received numerous national and international awards, including 2018 Arizona Innovator of the Year in the academia category, 2017 Arizona Biosciences Researcher of the Year, 2011 Royal Society of Chemistry Nucleic Acids Award, 2008 Paul Dawson Biotechnology Award, 2007 UArizona Innovator of the Year, 1994 American Cancer Society Medicinal Chemistry Award, 2005 Royal Society of Chemistry Sosnovsky Award in Cancer Therapy, and two Outstanding Investigator Awards from the National Cancer Institute in 1989 and 1994.

Hurley has published 278 articles and has served as senior editor of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and as chair of the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors. He also is a member of the American Cancer Society Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame. 

Overall, Hurley's work has generated the general acceptance of quadruplexes as a new class of validated targets for drug development. His contributions to science and technology have impacted cancer patient survival, created economic impact and opened up a new class of molecular receptors that are realizing their importance both to translational science and to patient treatment in the areas of oncology, infectious diseases and neurodegeneration.

"The news of this award is both humbling and gratifying," Hurley said. "Being a scientist has been the great privilege of my life, because it has allowed me to work with brilliant colleagues at great research universities and institutions in Arizona and around the world, collaborating on ways to bring down the most stubborn disease of our time – cancer.

"This award is a tribute to the love and support of my family, the hard work of students, staff and postdocs all along this journey, and especially to my father, who in his last months of life battling pancreatic cancer challenged me: 'Laurence, you've got to do something about this disease.' And that is what I have tried to do."