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MUSC chapter celebrates campus’ top innovators

J. Ryne Danielson | | February 3, 2017

2017 Inductees to the MUSC chapter of the NAI
Photos by Anne Thompson
Some of the 2017 inductees to the MUSC chapter of the National Academy of Inventors at a ceremony held Jan. 18.

MUSC’s local chapter of the National Academy of Inventors inducted 12 new members in a ceremony at the Drug Discovery Building Jan. 18. The group also honored College of Pharmacy biomedical researcher Craig Beeson, Ph.D., who was named a national fellow of the NAI in 2016.

The NAI, a nonprofit organization founded in 2010, advocates for inventors and encourages them to commercialize their ideas. 

“Election to NAI fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded 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 the welfare of society,” according to the organization’s website.

The NAI lists 757 fellows worldwide. Only official U.S. patent holders can be nominated for the honor.

Beeson has also been named an Inventor of the Year by MUSC’s Foundation for Research and Development for his work with molecular medical technologies, which included the development of eye drops to halt retinal degeneration — an irreversible cause of blindness. Capitalizing on his discoveries, he co-founded two local startup companies, MitoHealth and Mitochem Therapeutics, which promise exciting new treatments for patients with kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases.

“Dr. Beeson has made his mark in metabolic and mitochondrial diseases,” said Michael Rusnak, executive director of the FRD. “His academic record is exemplary. He’s authored over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. He’s been principal investigator or co-PI on over 30 funded grants. He’s mentored eight Ph.D. students, six MSTP students, six post-docs and more than 30 undergraduates and has been involved in 500-plus thesis committees. In his spare time, he’s co-founded two companies.”

Dr. Graig Beeson gives the keynote address at the NAI induction ceremony 
Dr. Craig Beeson gave the keynote address at the NAI Induction ceremony. He was made a national fellow in 2016. 

Beeson gave the ceremony’s keynote address. “The best thing I ever did in my career was to come to MUSC,” he said. “I come from a very large Hispanic clan in New Mexico, and I was the first of my generation to go to college. Early in my career, whenever I would go to family reunions, I’d have everyone asking me what I do. And, I’d say, I’m a chemist, I make drugs. And, they’d say, ‘Oh, that’s great —  uncle so-and-so has this disease, or aunt so-and-so has this disease.’

“But though I was happy with what I was doing, I knew that most of the compounds I was working on would never actually go to patients.”

At MUSC, he explained, that’s not the case. He’s now working on drugs and other medical technologies that he knows will one day go to the patients who need them. He praised the university and the FRD for their support.

“MUSC encourages innovation and encourages its researchers to be brave,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

“Creativity and innovations are the cornerstones of progress,” said Kathleen Brady, M.D., Ph.D., MUSC’s vice president for research. “And when they are in the service of improving human health, they are particularly spectacular.”

2017 Inductees to the MUSC Chapter of the NAI

• Theirry Bacro, Ph.D., College of Medicine
• Ryan Downey, Ph.D., College of Health Professions
• Amanda Giles, OTD, College of Health Professions
• Teresa Kelechi, Ph.D., College of Nursing
• Les Lenert, M.D., College of Medicine
• Anthony Leonard, M.D., Ph.D., College of Graduate Studies
• Coleen Martin, R.D., Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness
• Sachin Patel, College of Nursing
• John Schaefer, M.D., College of Medicine
• Beju Shah, PharmD, College of Pharmacy
• Frank Treiber, Ph.D., College of Nursing
• Brandon Welch, Ph.D., College of Medicine