Davis and Leal Elected Inventor Fellows

The National Academy of Inventors announced today (Dec. 3) the election of 168 new fellows, including two from UC Davis: Cristina Davis, the Warren and Leta Geidt Endowed Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Walter Leal, distinguished professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Election as an NAI fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. To date, NAI fellows hold more than 41,500 issued US patents, which have generated more than 11,000 licensed technologies and companies, and created more than 36 million jobs. Fellows’ discoveries have contributed to revenue of more than $1.6 trillion, according to the NAI.

Cristina Davis mugshot

Davis, a world leader in trace chemical sensing, holds 12 patents (and has others pending). Her approved patents, licensed to seven companies, all involve sensors and instrumentation to detect chemical biomarkers in people, animals and plants to rapidly and accurately diagnose diseases, or even opioid drugs.

In the case of opioids, Davis and Michael Schivo, a UC Davis faculty member in medicine, recently reported on their development of a test to detect the drugs in exhaled breath, which could be useful in caring for chronic pain patients as well as for checking for illegal drug use. 

She is fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (as announced a week ago) and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. She received a Chancellor’s Innovation Award in 2016.

Leal, a former chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology), is a leading global scientist in the field of insect olfaction and communication, investigating how insects detect odors, how they detect host and nonhost plant matter, and how they communicate within their species.

Walter Leal mugshot

His research, spanning three decades and producing 28 Japanese patents and two US patents, focuses on insects that carry mosquito-borne diseases as well as agricultural pests. He and his lab drew international attention with their discovery of the mode of action of DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and California Academy of Sciences, and a past president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology.

The NAI fellows program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a 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.

Formal induction of the new fellows is set to take place during the academy’s ninth annual meeting, to be held in Phoenix in April.

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Dateline Staff, 530-752-6556, dateline@ucdavis.edu

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