By Mark Dwortzan
Professor Emeritus Charles Cantor (BME, MED), a pioneer in synthetic biology who once directed theHuman Genome Project and chaired the College’s Biomedical Engineering Department, has been named a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). This high professional distinction recognizes academic innovators who have created or facilitated outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on society.
Cantor is among 143 innovators to receive the honor this year, representing 94 universities, government institutions and nonprofit research organizations and more than 5,600 US patents. The new Fellows include nine Nobel Laureates, 69 members of the National Academies, five inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six recipients of the US National Medal of Technology and Innovation, two recipients of the US National Medal of Science and 26 presidents and senior leadership of research universities and nonprofit research institutes, among other major awards and distinctions.
“I have always considered innovation to be the most exciting part of my career,” said Cantor, who is currently developing biotechnology companies including Sequenom, Inc. and Retrotope. “It is thrilling that an institution has been established to honor inventive scientists and engineers, and I am very pleased to be among the first people to be elected to the NAI.”
Cantor joins Professors James J. Collins (BME, MSE, SE), Mark Grinstaff (BME, Chemistry, MSE) andTheodore Moustakas (ECE, MSE), who were inducted as NAI Fellows in 2012, the inaugural year of the Fellowship.
In a career spanning more than five decades, he has coauthored a seminal three-volume textbook on biophysical chemistry and the first genomics textbook, published more than 450 peer reviewed articles, generated 54 US patents, and received many prestigious awards and honors, from membership in the National Academy of Sciences to induction as a Guggenheim Fellow and American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Fellow. Prior to joining the BU faculty in 1992, he held positions at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Cantor’s research is focused on identifying biological problems that are resistant to conventional analytical approaches and then developing new methodologies or techniques for solving these problems.
As director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology at Boston University, Cantor has developed methods for separating large DNA molecules, for studying structural relationships in complex assemblies of proteins and nucleic acids, and for sensitive detection of proteins and nucleic acids in a variety of settings. His current interests include the development of improved methods for noninvasive prenatal diagnostics, cancer diagnostics, early noninvasive detection of other clinical conditions (Sequenom), mass spectrometry of nucleic acids (Sequenom), improvement of methods for detection of specific RNA sequences in living cells and organisms, methods for protection of organisms and materials from oxidative damage (Retrotope), and new uses for nucleic acid analysis including DNA-based array detectors.
Cantor will be inducted by Deputy US Commissioner for Patents Andy Faile during the third Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors on Mar. 7, 2014, in Alexandria, Virginia, at the headquarters of the US Patent and Trademark Office, where they will receive a special trophy and a rosette pin. The NAI Fellows will also be recognized in a full page advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education and in a future issue of Technology and Innovation – Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors.
The NAI Fellows Selection Committee is comprised of 13 members including NAI Charter Fellows, recipients of US National Medals, National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, members of the National Academies and senior officials from the US Patent and Trademark Office, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of University Technology Managers, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
The mission of the NAI is to honor academic invention; recognize and encourage inventors; enhance the visibility of university and non-profit research institute technology and innovation; encourage the disclosure of intellectual property; educate and mentor innovative students; and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.