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Graduate faculty member named academy fellow

Staff Report

National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has named John Vournakis, Ph.D., as one of the association’s 2013 fellows. He will be officially recognized during an NAI induction ceremony on March 7 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Fellows will be presented with a special trophy and rosette pin.

Vournakis is among 143 innovators elected to NAI Fellow status that represent 94 universities and governmental and non–profit research institutions. Together, they hold more than 5,600 U.S. patents.

Election as an NAI Fellow is a high honor bestowed upon academic innovators and inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions and innovations that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.

"It's been my career objective to use basic science discovery as the basis for developing and bringing to the medical market place new innovative products; devices and therapeutics,” said Vournakis. “MUSC has provided an ideal environment for the realization of that goal."

Vournakis is a professor of graduate studies at MUSC and has been on the MUSC faculty since 1995. He is also vice president for research and development at Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc., located in Burlington, Mass. He previously served on the faculty of Dartmouth College as professor of biology between 1984 to 1995 and as professor of biology at Syracuse University between 1973 to 1984.

Vournakis received a Ph.D. from the Cornell University Department of Chemistry in physical biochemistry in 1968. He trained as a post–doctoral and research associate at MIT and Harvard universities in the fields of molecular biology and genetics between 1969 to 1973.

Vournakis is known for his early work on the physical chemistry of RNA structure and on the mechanism of drug–DNA interactions. He joined Dartmouth College as professor of biology in 1984, where he founded the Molecular Genetics Center at Dartmouth, after 12 years on the faculty of Syracuse University. During the period 1985 to 1992 he assisted the Industrial Division of Bristol–Myers Company to establish its genetic engineering group; served as vice president of Science and Corporate Officer at Verax Corporation, a pharmaceutical protein bio–processing company; and later served as senior vice president, interim CEO and Corporate Officer at Genmap, Inc., an early genomics company. He co-founded Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc., which has been in existence since 1992.

Vournakis has published more than 150 scholarly works, is a regular reviewer of grant applications for federal agencies and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. He is an inventor on 35 issued U.S. and foreign patents. Vournakis has expertise in polymer science and in the development and large–scale production of biopolymers for use in biomedical devices, particularly for applications in hemostasis and drug delivery. His current research, focused on the development of medical products from marine polysaccharides, has resulted in several U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CE Mark–cleared products for the treatment of bleeding, and is the basis for the development of a drug delivery system for the treatment of cancer.

Vournakis has been a science advisor and director of several biotechnology companies. He has lectured on the biotechnology industry in numerous venues including the Amos Tuck School for Business at Dartmouth College and MUSC’s Bio–Entrepreneur Program.

February 27, 2014

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