University of Arizona Women Elected Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors

Feb. 17, 2021
Meredith Hay

Meredith Hay

Tucson, Ariz. (February 11, 2021) – The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has named61academic inventors to the2021 class ofNAI Senior Members. Among these are professors May Khanna and Meredith Hay of the University of Arizona. 

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 like the UArizona to recognize their outstanding innovators. These organizations themselves are widely regarded as innovation powerhouses which 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 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. “All have not only excelled in their fields but have 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.”  

Meredith Hay, Ph.D., College of Medicine – Tucson, BIO5 Institute 

Meredith Hay joined the UArizona Health Sciences faculty in 2008. She is a professor of physiology in the 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, Hay was one of the first scientists to look at the role of sex differences in 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 to inflammation in the brain. There are currently no effective treatments for inflammation related brain disease and memory loss. In response to these needs, 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. 

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. 

May Khanna, Ph.D.College of Medicine – Tucson, BIO5 Institute 

May Khanna

May Khanna

May Khanna is an assistant professor of pharmacology in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, as well as a member of the BIO5 Institute and the Center for Innovation in Brain Science. 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. 

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 represents36research universities, government, and non-profit research institutes. They are named inventors on over617issued 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.” 

Following a nomination for NAI Senior Member, individuals undergo a rigorous selection process by the NAI Advisory Committee, which is composed of elected NAI members and other professionals considered pioneers in their respective field.  

Senior Members are elected biannually, and nominations are accepted on a rolling basis. Nominations are currently being accepted for the next Senior Member class. 

The NAI is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. 

Paul Tumarkin, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications