Chemist Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Michael Pirrung, a distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, has been named one of the new 175 fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).
Pirrung is an organic chemist with research in the areas of chemical biology, synthesis, and nucleic acids. He is a pioneer in the field of microarrays, which have important biological applications in genomics and helped usher in public genetic testing technologies.
He holds 41 U.S. and many international patents, most of which are assigned to the company Affymetrix. He was one of the original scientists involved in the start-up Affymax, from which Affymetrix was spun off.
His most significant patent is Large Scale Photolithographic Solid Phase Synthesis of Polypeptides and Receptor Binding Screening Thereof, which first described the concept of fabricating arrays of biopolymers using photolithography.
The patent family based on this 1992 patent was in the top 10 most cited patent families from 1999 to 2004. His invention kick-started the microarray technology industry, which was a $3.9 billion market worldwide in 2013.
His contribution helped enable genetic testing to the public through services such as 23andMe as well as laying groundwork for many next-generation sequencing technologies that exploit DNA on surfaces.
Currently, he is involved in drug discovery research and has U.S. patents in diabetes, neurodegeneration, and cancer. His current research has developed into a spin-off company, Hibiscus Bioscience, of which he is the co-founder.
There are now 757 NAI Fellows, representing 229 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. The new group of fellows will be inducted April 6, 2017 as part of the Sixth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.
Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.
Those elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.
Pirrung is the second NAI fellow at UC Riverside. He joins Ping Liang, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, who was elected a fellow in 2013.