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Five USF scientists honored for their innovations

Margie Manning



Photo credit: Aimee Blodgett/USF

The National Academy of Inventors named five faculty members from the University of South Florida to its 2019 class of senior members.

The five scientists collectively hold 63 patents on innovations ranging from neurosciences to clean energy to engineering and pharmaceutical chemistry.

The National Academy of Inventors, based in Tampa, recognized a total of 54 academic inventors this year as senior members, highlighting their work in inventing technologies that have a wider impact on society, as well as their success in licensing and commercialization.

“Our innovative and entrepreneurial faculty members play an important role in making the University of South Florida a hub of academic excellence and a catalyst for economic development,” USF President Steve Currall said in a news release.  “Through creativity and discovery, we make a lasting impact on the future.”

Here are the five USF inventors named in the 2019 class of senior members of NAI.

Cesar Borlongan

Dr. Cesar Borlongan, distinguished professor and director of the Center of Excellence for Aging & Brain Repair; professor, USF Morsani College of Medicine, Neurosurgery.

Borlongan is a leader in stem cell therapy for stroke. His translational bench-to-clinic research has led to five FDA-approved clinical trials of cell transplantation, including the world’s first cell therapy in stroke patients. He holds 16 U.S. patents.

Robert D. Frisina


Dr. Robert D. Frisina, chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering; distinguished professor of medical engineering, chemical & biological engineering, and communication sciences & disorders; director of the Global Center for Hearing & Speech Research.

A world leader in sensory neuro-engineering, Frisina has spent more than 35 years working to combat acquired hearing loss. Frisina leads the multidisciplinary Global Center for Hearing & Speech Research, which brings together neuroscientists, engineers and clinicians in research and development of new treatments. He holds three patents, all of which have been commercialized.


James Leahy

Dr. James Leahy, interim chair, graduate director and professor, Department of Chemistry; professor, Department of Molecular Medicine.

Leahy is a faculty member in the Florida Center of Excellence for Drug Discovery and Innovation at USF, a multidisciplinary effort aimed at the discovery of new medicinal agents and potential drug candidates. A veteran of both academic research and the pharmaceutical industry, Leahy holds 25 patents. Three drugs that Leahy developed to treat cancer are on the market in the United States, and a hypertension drug he developed is on the market in Japan.


George Philippidis

Dr. George Philippidis, associate professor, associate dean of research and the director of sustainable energy, Patel College of Global Sustainability.

Philippidis directs applied research and technology commercialization in the conversion of algae and biomass to sustainable bioproducts and fuels. He has developed innovative processes for large-scale cultivation of algae to produce jet fuel as well as cosmetics, nutraceuticals and other products. Philippidis holds nine U.S. patents and two international patents.


Sylvia Thomas

Dr. Sylvia Thomas, associate professor, USF Department of Electrical Engineering; director, Advanced Materials Bio and Integration Research Laboratory.

Thomas teaches, conducts research, advises and mentors students in the areas of electrical engineering in the Advanced Materials Bio and Integration Research laboratory. Her work focuses on developing low-cost, low-power, miniaturized electronic circuitry and advanced materials with greater longevity and durability. Thomas holds eight patents and has more than 20 years of global experience in academia and industry.

The 2019 class of NAI senior members represents 32 research universities and government and nonprofit research institutes. With five selections, USF tied Saint Louis University for the most of any institution in the United States.

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