Singapore-based scientist earns top accolade for academic inventors

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A Singapore-based scientist has earned for the first time the highest professional accolade for academic inventors.

Professor Jackie Y. Ying, executive director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), has been named a fellow of the US National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

The status is given to academic inventors who have shown a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have contributed to society.

Prof Ying, 51, born in Taiwan but an American citizen raised in Singapore and New York, is one of 155 inventors from around the world who received the honour this year.

The NAI is a non-profit member organisation founded in 2010 in Florida to recognise inventors with patents issued from the US Patent and Trademark Office and whose inventions benefit society.

"It is a great honour to be named a fellow of the US National Academy of Inventors," Prof Ying said in a statement released yesterday by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*Star, which the IBN comes under.

Prof Ying, a chemical engineer by training, joins more than 900 inventors worldwide given the NAI fellow status. This year's fellows hold nearly 6,000 issued US patents, bringing the patents held by all fellows to more than 32,000.

The group includes 29 Nobel Laureates, such as Japan-born American scientist Shuji Nakamura, and more than 100 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes.

"Having gone to the same college as Thomas Edison, I was always inspired to be an inventor.

"To be able to make a societal impact through technological breakthroughs and innovations is the most exciting aspect of research," said Prof Ying, who graduated in 1987 from New York's Cooper Union.


Prof Ying later joined the chemical engineering faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1992 and became its youngest full professor at age 35 in 2001.

She has more than 180 primary patents and patent applications.

Thirty-two of her patents have been licensed to companies for applications in areas including drug delivery, nanomedicine, cell and tissue engineering and medical implants.

Her inventions have also led to 11 spin-offs, one of which - SmartCells Inc - has developed a technology capable of autoregulating the release of insulin for treating diabetes.

Prof Ying, who has a 16-year-old daughter, said her next step is to establish an incubator to help spin off medtech and biotech companies.

She has won a string of awards for her inventions, including being named one of the 100 Engineers of the Modern Era by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2008.