Innovative faculty recognized by the VCU chapter of the National Academy of Inventors

Researchers’ patents range from novel anti-inflammatory therapies to work on a vaccine for two dangerous tick-borne pathogens.

NAI inductees Jason Carlyon (far left), Vamsi Yadavalli and Antonio Abbate (second from right), with VCU President Michael Rao (middle) and keynote speaker Kevin Ward (far right). (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)
NAI inductees Jason Carlyon (far left), Vamsi Yadavalli and Antonio Abbate (second from right), with VCU President Michael Rao (middle) and keynote speaker Kevin Ward (far right). (Tom Kojcsich, University Marketing)

By A.J. Hostetler
VCU Office of the Vice President for Research


Faculty innovators help empower Virginia Commonwealth University to respond to pressing social needs, VCU President Michael Rao told members of the VCU chapter of the National Academy of Inventors.

Rao spoke at the chapter’s annual ceremony Monday, at which three faculty researchers were inducted and another was honored for election as an academy fellow. To join the VCU chapter, researchers must hold at least two U.S. patents.

“VCU really has continued to rise to be part of the solution of things people need us to address,” said Rao, Ph.D.  “We’re solving a lot of the problems that need to be addressed now.”

The chapter includes five fellows who hold 171 U.S. patents among them, Rao noted. B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D., the Floyd D. Gottwald Junior Chair in Pharmaceutical Engineering and chair of the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering in the VCU College of Engineering, is the chapter’s latest fellow. As co-founder and CEO of the VCU Medicines for All Institute, Gupton’s work to increase access to vital, affordable medicines around the globe is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gupton will attend a formal induction ceremony next month at the academy’s annual meeting.

Faculty patents and licensing of inventions are key to helping fund VCU research but their impact stretches far beyond the campus and Richmond, said Ivelina Metcheva, Ph.D., senior executive director of VCU’s Innovation Gateway, which supports the chapter. “In the past decade, VCU faculty members have made 1,200 invention disclosures, filed 1,500 patents, received 164 patents issued and seen more than $25 million in licensing revenue, with much of that going to the university.”

She introduced as a “serial innovator” the event’s keynote speaker, Kevin Ward, M.D., professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. In the early 2000s, Ward, then with VCU, and colleague Robert Diegelmann, Ph.D., developed a mineral hemostatic compound for use in rapidly staunching blood loss. With support from Innovation Gateway, their invention is now licensed commercially.

At Michigan, Ward developed Fast Forward Medical Innovation, a program to accelerate innovation in biomedical science. In his remarks, he told the gathering that universities need to remove barriers that can deter faculty research, such as the drive to tenure, and added that researchers should kick into gear the “potential energy of innovation into the kinetic energy of innovation.”

The VCU 2020 inventor inductees are:

  • Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., associate chair for research; associate professor of medicine and of physiology and biophysics; and the James C. Roberts Esq. Professor of Cardiology, VCU School of Medicine. His recent patent focuses on identifying novel anti-inflammatory therapies for patients with acute myocardial infarction or heart failure.
  • Jason Carlyon, Ph.D., professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, VCU School of Medicine, whose patent relates to developing a vaccine and diagnostic test for two tick-borne bacterial pathogens that cause emerging and potentially fatal diseases.
  • Vamsi Yadavalli, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering, VCU College of Engineering, whose recent patent relates to developing biocompatible and biodegradable micro-supercapacitors to store energy and power implantable bioelectronics and as biosensors.

"The [National Academy of Inventors] chapter at VCU is designed to honor and recognize VCU inventors and researchers, to enhance the visibility of university technology and innovation and to promote the translation of inventions to benefit society,” Metcheva said.

The National Academy of Inventors is an organization of universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes, with more than 4,000 individual inventor members and fellows worldwide.