Arntzen named to National Academy of Inventors

Arntzen named to National Academy of Inventors

December 23, 2015

December 23, 2015

Arizona State University Regents’ Professor and research scientist Charles Arntzen, Ph.D., has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Arntzen is a pioneer in plant biotechnology and the development of plant-based vaccines and therapeutics for human and animal disease prevention.  Referred to as “the godfather of pharming,” Arntzen is best known for playing a key role in developing ZMapp, the first successful treatment against the Ebola virus during the largest outbreak in history. The 2014 Ebola epidemic has resulted in more 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.

NAI’s highly prestigious honor is presented to 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.

“Dr. Arntzen’s creative approaches to improving human health, particularly for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, epitomize the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that ASU strives to exemplify,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “This honor from the NAI acknowledges his tremendous contributions to plant-derived pharmaceuticals and vaccines, and the impact his developments will have on current and future generations.”

“It has been incredibly rewarding to see how an idea, considered unconventional at the time we first worked it out in our ASU laboratory, could emerge to be the leading therapeutic for the treatment of Ebola,” said Arntzen. “I was lucky to be in an academic environment that tolerated high-risk, high-reward research, and to be able to work with a skilled multi-disciplinary team.”

During the course of a prolific career, Arntzen and his collaborators have used plants as bioactive factories for the production of life-saving vaccines and therapeutics.  These have included plant-based anti-cancer agents, therapeutic agents to protect populations from bioterror threats, proteins to combat rabies, plant-derived vaccines against Hepatitis C, vaccines to inoculate recipients against noroviruses and many others.

Arntzen's longstanding research interests are in plant molecular biology and protein engineering,  producing pharmacologically active products in transgenic plants, overcoming health and agricultural constraints in the developing world as well as the use of plant biotechnology for enhancement of food quality and value.

NAI has named 168 leaders of invention and innovation to Fellow status. Those named today, including Arntzen, bring the total number of NAI Fellows to 582, representing over 190 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes.

Other ASU researchers to receive the award include Stuart Lindsay, Ph.D., director of the Center for Single Molecule Biophysics  at the Biodesign Institute and Michael Kozicki, director of the ASU Center for Applied Nanoionics.

Arntzen, a researcher in the the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at Arizona State University is also professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Life Sciences. He was appointed to the Florence Ely Nelson Presidential Endowed Chair at ASU in Tempe in 2000 and named Regents Professor in 2004. He served as the founding director of The Biodesign Institute until May, 2003, and as co-director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology of that Institute until 2007. Arntzen was also named the top creative person in business in 2014 by Fast Company magazine.

In their selection for the fellowship, the NAI honors not only Arntzen’s restlessly innovative spirit but also his dedication to the improvement of human society, through research aimed at reducing suffering and mortality caused by infectious disease.

The NAI Fellows will be inducted on April 15, 2016, as part of the Fifth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

About the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University
The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University works to improve human health and quality of life through its translational research mission in health care, energy and the environment, global health and national security. Grounded on the premise that scientists can best solve complex problems by emulating nature, Biodesign serves as an innovation hub that fuses previously separate areas of knowledge to serve as a model for 21st century academic research. By fusing bioscience/biotechnology, nanoscale engineering and advanced computing, Biodesign’s research scientists and students take an entrepreneurial team approach to accelerating discoveries to market. They also educate future generations of scientists by providing hands-on laboratory research training in state-of-the-art facilities for ASU. @ASUBiodesign

About the ASU School of Life Sciences
The School of Life Sciences’ mission is to inspire and transform life science students by providing an innovative learning experience that prepares them to thrive in a dynamic and demanding world. It also aims to improve life by stimulating scientific discovery and solving critical problems at the intersection of the life sciences and society. The school is an academic hub for interdisciplinary centers and institutes, and for attracting research talent. Dynamic laboratories, state-of-the-art technologies and a vast expansion of research infrastructure now support more than 3,000 students and 100 faculty members. From Pulitzer Prize winners to young entrepreneurial thought leaders, life sciences faculty pursue discovery and translational research, providing an entrepreneurial climate to bring the best research ideas to fruition.  

About ASU

Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American Research University, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.


Written by: Richard Harth