Terry Matsunaga, PhD, professor of medical imaging in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating inventions that have a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Dr. Matsunaga’s current research focuses on using contrast-enhanced ultrasound and microbubble technology for cancer imaging as well as drug and gene delivery.
“Being named a fellow helps to support some of the ideas and inventions developed in my lab. Moreover, it helps to validate that all the hard work put in by students, whom I have been fortunate enough to mentor over the years, was for a good purpose and helped to advance science in our areas of research,” Dr. Matsunaga said.
Dr. Matsunaga joined the Department of Medical Imaging in 2007. Prior to that, he worked in the private sector for 16 years. There, he was a primary developer of Definity® microbubbles, a technology that uses perfluorocarbons that can be injected during an echocardiogram to help diagnose problems in the heart. His most recent efforts revolve around phase-change contrast agents for tumor detection and extravascular cardiac applications.
“My current research is inspired by the challenges and motivation of other scientists who also feel that the area of ultrasound contrast agent research can move forward to develop new paradigms for advancing health care in the coming years. The more interested they are, the more interested I become,” Dr. Matsunaga explained.
Dr. Matsunaga, who also is an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering, is listed on 17 patent applications and is an inventor on 23 issued patents. His inventions have been licensed to the startups Nanosonic Bioreagents and Triangle Biotechnology.
Dr. Matsunaga acknowledged the role the College of Medicine – Tucson played in supporting his research. “I feel the College of Medicine should receive a great deal of credit for giving me the opportunity to do research. I must admit that much of my ideas were a result of discussions with other College of Medicine faculty and researchers who were always open about sharing scientific ideas,” he said.
“I have always considered myself as just an everyday person who was lucky enough to be able to do what I love. Of course, I am grateful to my mentors who gave me the chance to learn how to do research,” he shared. “But foremost, I would like to acknowledge all those motivated students who wanted to learn about research and spent countless hours conducting experiments for the purpose of better understanding science. It is they who should receive all the accolades. Finally, my family has always been supportive of my efforts. For them I am most grateful.”
Along with Dr. Matsunaga, UArizona inventors Liesl Folks, PhD, MBA, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs as well as a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, and Mark Van Dyke, PhD, associate dean of research and professor of biomedical engineering at the College of Engineering, also were elected as fellows to the NAI.
“The inclusion of our faculty members in this prestigious group of innovators speaks volumes about the tremendous work being done at the University of Arizona to create positive impact in people's lives,” UArizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD, said to UArizona News. “Dr. Folks, Dr. Matsunaga and Dr. Van Dyke are all deeply committed to exploration, which is one of the core values of our university, and I am proud to see their efforts recognized in this way.”
The NAI Fellows Program welcomed 164 academic inventors and innovators from 116 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes in 2021.