The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has elected their new cohort of 2021 NAI Fellows and University of New Mexico faculty member David G. Whitten made their list. Whitten is a distinguished professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and associate director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering.
Election to NAI Fellow status is one of the highest professional distinctions 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.
This year’s cohort includes 164 academic innovators from across the world hailing from 116 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. NAI Fellows hold more than 48,000 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 13,000 licensed technologies and companies, created more than one million jobs, and over $3 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI Fellow discoveries.
Whitten was nominated by the UNM Rainforest Innovations Board of Directors for the national honor.
“Last year, the UNMRI selection committee nominated Dr. Whitten as the 2020 Rainforest Innovation Fellow and this year we decided to nominate him for NAI Fellow status,” said UNM Rainforest Innovations Board Chair Sandra Begay. “He was an outstanding candidate with over 50 years of experience as a scientist and academic, and during his 17 years at UNM, he has served as both a leader and mentor. He was a stand-out candidate, so we are excited that he was chosen as an NAI Fellow.”
“Dr. Whitten’s ingenuity and research discoveries combats some big problems we face in the 21st century,” added Lisa Kuuttila, UNM Rainforest Innovations CEO and Chief Economic Development Officer. “His dedication to developing better methods of disinfection and his leadership while at the university made him an outstanding candidate. We are pleased that he was selected.”
Whitten is recognized for his novel coating technology using cationic conjugated polyelectrolytes (CPEs) which combat two of the largest threats to human health and well-being in the 21st century: antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the spread of infectious disease. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, disinfection of workplaces, houses, restaurants, schools, and airplanes is crucial to stop the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Disinfectants have helped keep the world from experiencing even worse scenarios and saved many lives.
Whitten’s passion for developing better methods of disinfection led to the startup Biosafe Defenses LLC, which is currently working to launch an industrial grade disposable antimicrobial wipe created specifically for healthcare environments. It is highly effective in eradicating elusive bacteria, fungi and viruses and preventing the regrowth of deadly biofilms.
The 2021 Fellows will be inducted on June 15, 2022, in Phoenix, Ariz., as part of the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors. In honor of their outstanding accomplishments, Fellows will be presented with a special trophy, medal, and rosette pin.