Two distinguished Stony Brook scholars have been elected Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).
Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, MACP, Senior Vice President of the Health Sciences and Dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine, and F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, are among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.
Election as an NAI Fellow 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 the quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.
Dr. Kaushansky, a physician-scientist specializing in hematology, is known internationally for his seminal research on the molecular biology of blood cell production. He began his clinical and research career at the University of Washington, where he rose to become Section Chief of Hematology and received several NIH grants. While at the University of Washington, and subsequently at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Kaushansky and his research team cloned several of the genes important in the growth of differentiation of blood cells, including thrombopoietin, a key regulator of stem cell and platelet production. He and colleagues then established that thrombopoietin exerts a profound influence on hematopoietic stem cells and affects the expression of a number of transcription factors that influence stem cell fate decisions. This work also led to a better understanding of the pathobiology of several congenital disorders of platelet and stem cell production.
Prior to coming to Stony Brook in 2010, Dr. Kaushansky was the Helen M. Ranney Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, where he grew the department’s research, educational and clinical impact.
During his tenure at Stony Brook thus far, Dr. Kaushansky has spearheaded the expansion of academic programs and training within the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and has overseen the development of the Medical and Research Translation (MART) Building. With its opening next month, the MART will serve as an incubator for new approaches to understanding the causes for, and treatments of cancer, using sophisticated imaging and informatics, work that is expected to lead to many more Stony Brook Medicine inventions.
Studier is best known for his invention of an efficient system for engineering common E. coli bacteria to produce almost any desired protein from a cloned gene. Known as the T7 expression system, this method leverages knowledge gained from basic studies of how T7 bacteriophage (a virus that inserts its DNA into an E. coli cell) rapidly redirects all activity in the cell to producing new T7 viruses. The T7 expression system uses crucial elements of T7 DNA to redirect most of the protein production in the cell toward a single protein specified by a cloned gene. The system has been useful for producing a wide range of proteins.
In the course of his studies, Studier developed other tools for molecular biology, including methods to measure the size and shape of single- and double-stranded DNA, and slab-gel electrophoresis for studying proteins and nucleic acids. These tools, along with the T7 system, are now used in biochemistry and structural biology labs around the world for basic biomedical research and practical applications, including medical diagnostics and treatment.
Approximately 800 companies have licensed the T7 system, which has earned Brookhaven Lab much of its royalty income over the years. These T7 licenses and licenses for the auto-induction bacterial growth media have resulted in royalties and license fees totaling about $72 million—income that helped the Lab to fund strategic research and deployment, maturation of promising technologies, and educational programs.
“Repeatedly during his career, Bill Studier solved problems he encountered in his own work with solutions that were then taken up by biochemists and geneticists around the world. His commitment to basic research is evident by his freely sharing his inventions with academic labs without cost to maximize their usefulness,” said John Shanklin, chair of the Biology Department at Brookhaven Lab.
F. William Studier earned a B.S. in biophysics from Yale in 1958, followed by a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1963. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine, and then joined Brookhaven Lab’s Biology Department in 1964 as an assistant biophysicist. Over the years, Studier rose through the department’s ranks, receiving tenure in 1971 and becoming a tenured senior biophysicist in 1974. He served as chair of the Biology Department from 1990 to 1999 and then returned to research. His achievements have been recognized by election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1990, the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. Retired from Brookhaven Lab in 2015, he retains the title of Senior Scientist Emeritus. He holds 15 patents of which 9 patents have been licensed and commercialized, including those on the T7 system, which is the most successful Brookhaven Lab technology invented to this day.