Three Penn faculty members have been named National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellows. Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman of the Perelman School of Medicine and Dean Vijay Kumar of the School of Engineering and Applied Science received the honor, considered the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors. They are among 169 new members of the 2022 class of NAI fellows.
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 the quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. The new fellows hail from 110 research universities and research institutions worldwide. Collectively, the 2022 class holds more than 4,800 issued U.S. patents.
Katalin Karikó is an adjunct professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine. She is recognized for her foundational mRNA vaccine research with Drew Weissman that led to the first two FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines, pivotal discoveries which opened the door to ending the global pandemic. The vaccine platform may also revolutionize the delivery of efficacious and safe vaccines, therapeutics, and gene therapies. Karikó has received numerous awards, including the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Princess of Asturias Award, the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, and the Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Biotechnology.
Vijay Kumar is the Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering with appointments in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Computer and Information Science, and Electrical and Systems Engineering. His research on the study of collective behavior in biological and robotics systems has informed the creation of autonomous ground and aerial robots for several applications, including first response, precision farming, and search and rescue. He holds seven U.S. patents and is the founder of Exyn Technologies, an advisor to Treeswift, and on the board of WeRobotics and O2Micro. Among many awards and honors, Kumar is the recipient of the ASME Mechanisms and Robotics Award, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Distinguished Service Award, a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society George Saridis Leadership Award, the ASME Robert E. Abbott Award, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Pioneer Award, and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Field Award. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Drew Weissman is the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation in Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. He is recognized for his work alongside Katalin Karikó in discovering the modified mRNA technology, which has launched a new era of vaccine development. Their mRNA research breakthrough has been used in both the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and has revolutionized the field of vaccine development. Weissman’s current research focuses on developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine to stop the next coronavirus epidemic, a universal flu vaccine, cancer therapeutics, and a vaccine to prevent herpes. Weissman has also been honored with many awards, including the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Princess of Asturias Award, and the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research.
The 2022 class of Fellows will be inducted at the 12th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors on June 27 in Washington, D.C.
The complete list of NAI Fellows is available on the NAI website.