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An Honored Inventor

National Academy of Inventors elects UD’s Terry Papoutsakis to 2020 Fellows class

by | December 8, 2020

Photo by Evan Krape

Dec 8, 2020

Prof. Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis has been elected to the National Academy of Inventors 2020 Class of Fellows.

The University of Delaware’s Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis, Unidel Eugene Du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

The highest professional distinction accorded only to academic inventors, the announcement on Tuesday, Dec. 8 places Papoutsakis among an elite group of innovators honored with NAI fellow status.

The NAI Fellows Program includes 1,228 fellows worldwide representing more than 250 prestigious universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. According to the NAI, collectively, these fellows hold more than 38,000 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 13,000 licensed technologies and 2,300 companies.

Elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2018, Papoutsakis was selected for translational biotechnology contributions that have profoundly impacted sustainable manufacturing and human health.

An expert in such areas as the engineering of synthetic microbes that can produce liquid fuels and widely used chemicals, he holds 16 issued or pending patents, many of which are currently in the commercialization pipeline.

Over his 40-year career, Papoutsakis has essentially written the book on techniques for measuring a biological system’s metabolism at the cellular level. In particular, he has developed genetic, genomic and metabolic engineering tools for understanding and engineering Clostridia, anaerobic bacteria critical to the fermentation process in biofuel production.

Today, these tools and techniques form the basis of processes used industrially by many companies worldwide for the sustainable production of chemicals, fuels and nutritional products.

Beyond these important and lasting contributions, Papoutsakis’ current research focuses on developing technologies to convert natural gas to liquid fuel using biological processes, as well as mammalian biology and biotechnology with an emphasis on cell and gene therapies.

Joy Goswami, assistant director of Technology Transfer, a unit of UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, has worked closely with Papoutsakis for more than a decade.

“We’ve seen a significant interest from companies wanting to commercialize his innovations in the areas of metabolic engineering and stem-cell biology for applications in industrial biotechnology, regenerative medicine, and gene therapy,” said Goswami, who nominated him for the award. “Several of his innovations are licensed and well on track for commercial development.”

Papoutsakis also is an entrepreneur. He founded Elcitron, a company focused on developing biotechnologies based on clostridium organisms. White Dog Labs, an animal nutrition and health company, acquired Elcitron in 2014.

Papoutsakis is among a growing number of UD faculty to be elected as NAI fellows since 2012. Other current and former members of the UD community selected as NAI fellows, including Kristi Kiick (2019), Yushan Yan (2018), Dennis Prather (2017), the late Richard Heck and Norman Wagner (2015), Babatunde Ogunnaike, (2014), Wayne Westerman and John Elias (2013), and former UD president Patrick Harker(2012).

A formal induction ceremony for the NAI 2020 Class of Fellows is scheduled to occur June 7-9, 2021, during the NAI’s 10th annual meeting.