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McGovern Award Winner Supports Scientific Invention

August 08, 2016

Paul SanbergSigma Xi’s 2016 John P. McGovern Science and Society Award, given in large part to recognize a researcher’s impact on society, will go to an advocate for scientists getting their discoveries into the world.

Paul Sanberg founded the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), which supports scientists who patented, or want to patent, their research. He is president of the NAI, which is composed of nonprofit research organizations and research universities that honor and support their inventors. 

Sanberg has traveled the world to talk about the importance of inventing on behalf of the NAI and as a AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador. His 100 patents worldwide came after he learned how patents can offer protection to the investment that universities, companies, and governments make in research. 

Nonacademic funding is critical to his neuroscience research. Sanberg was studying Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease when his father had a stroke. With few advanced therapies on the horizon, Sanberg shifted to investigating stroke and how to treat it.

Today, he is University of South Florida’s senior vice president for research, innovation, and economic development and executive director of USF’s Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair. His work has been critical to understanding and developing new pharmaceutical and cellular therapies for brain damage, such as stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. His research contributed to understanding that too many of certain excitatory neurotransmitters carrying information to brain cells can kill the cells. He also led a research team that demonstrated stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood can be made into neural cells to help repair a damaged brain. The stem cell therapy showed significant brain recovery in animal studies. It is now in human trials to help prove that it works. 

Stem cells could be a cure for brain damage from stroke and degenerative diseases, but funding has to come from private companies and governments to continue moving the research forward, Sanberg said. 

Sanberg will receive his McGovern Award and give a keynote lecture at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, November 10–13, 2016, in Atlanta. To watch Sanberg's full interview, go to his award page