Stephen Benkovic named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

Barbara Kennedy
December 15, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Stephen J. Benkovic, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry at Penn State, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). The award is considered to be a high honor "bestowed upon 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." Benkovic is the only current Penn State faculty member who has been honored as a Fellow of the NAI.

Benkovic is being honored for his invention of boron-containing pharmaceuticals. He and Lucille Shapiro founded Anacor Pharmaceuticals, which has two topical drugs: one for nail and skin infections and the other for a type of eczema called atopic dermatitis. The first, Kerydin, is now a marketed drug. The second has just recently completed phase-3 clinical trials and is in line for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In addition, Benkovic and others have founded a second company, Boragen. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Boragen's mission is to discover and then to develop boron-containing antifungicides that are useful in agriculture and in other environments.

The NAI Fellows elected in 2015 account for more than 5,300 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by the 582 NAI Fellows to more than 20,000. Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors are nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, support and enhancement of innovation, and having a significant impact on the society or economy through innovative discoveries, creating startup companies, and enhancing the culture of academic invention.

Benkovic is renowned for his research accomplishments, which have been described as highly original, of unusual breadth, and as having a profound impact on understanding how proteins function as catalysts. His work continually is recognized to be at the forefront of research at the interface of chemistry and biology. He is considered to be among the most prominent mechanistic enzymologists in the world.

Among his many consultantships, he serves as the head of the scientific advisory board for Anacor Pharmaceuticals. He is a member of the external advisory group for the Geisinger Medical Center, and serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and of a number of advisory committees for the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Among his many honors, Benkovic was one of 10 eminent researchers named by President Obama to receive the 2009 National Medal of Science, the nation's highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research. In 2011, the National Academy of Sciences honored him with its Award in Chemical Sciences in recognition of his groundbreaking contributions to understanding catalysis and complex biological machines -- specifically the purinosome and DNA polymerases -- and for demonstrating the power of chemistry to solve biological problems.

He became a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2002, a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1994, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1987, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1985, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1984. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, the Federation of American Biologists, Sigma Xi, and the Chemical Society. 

  • Stephen J. Benkovic

    Stephen J. Benkovic, an Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry at Penn State University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

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    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated December 16, 2015