University of Arizona Health Sciences faculty member Meredith Hay, PhD, professor of physiology in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and member of the BIO5 Institute, Sarver Heart Center and Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, has been named a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). 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.
“I am honored to be selected to join the National Academy of Inventors,” Dr. Hay said. “Advancing new technologies and innovation at UArizona is the ultimate team sport. Our team of inventors has been hyper-focused to develop new therapies to treat and prevent vascular dementia. Together, we will keep working to treat and prevent vascular dementia.”
Substantial evidence links increases in systemic inflammation to impaired cognitive function. In addition, scientific studies have linked early Alzheimer’s disease to inflammation in the brain. There are currently no effective treatments for inflammation-related brain disease and memory loss. In response to these needs, Dr. 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.
Dr. Hay worked with Tech Launch Arizona (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.
“With the help from Tech Launch Arizona and ProNeurogen Inc., in just six short years we have been able to secure nine new patents on these inventions in the United States, Australia, Japan, EU and China to advance our novel technologies to the clinic,” Dr. Hay said. “With our clinical cardiology partners at Sarver Heart Center and our neuropsychology partners in the Department of Psychology, we have been able to secure funding from the NIH to advance these technologies to clinical trials for those suffering from vascular dementia.”
Dr. Hay said the University of Arizona provides an incredibly collaborative environment for her to advance her research. She credits her success to fellow inventors John Konhilas, PhD, associate professor of physiology and chair of physiological sciences, and Robin Polt, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, as well as clinical partners Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, division chief of cardiology and director of the Sarver Heart Center, and Lee Ryan, PhD, department head of psychology in the College of Science and associate director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.
The National Academy of Inventors has named 61 academic inventors to the 2021 class of NAI Senior Members, including another College of Medicine – Tucson faculty member, May Khanna, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, as well as a member of the BIO5 Institute and the Center for Innovation in Brain Science. This latest class of NAI Senior Members represents 36 research universities, government and nonprofit research institutes. They are named inventors on more than 600 issued U.S. patents.
“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 Drs. Khanna and Hay as members of our faculty,” said Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of TLA, the office of the university that works with researchers to commercialize inventions stemming from UArizona innovation. “They have not only excelled in their fields but have also 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.”
The ability to nominate an individual for NAI Senior Member recognition is an exclusive opportunity afforded solely to NAI Member Institutions such as UArizona to recognize its outstanding innovators. These organizations themselves are widely regarded as innovation powerhouses that continuously promote and foster the spirit of innovation.