Inventor, UA professor Josh Sakon named NAI fellow

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 402 views 

Photo credit: Michael Barera

Biochemist Josh Sakon, whose inventions have addressed bone disease, hair loss and ethanol production, recently was selected as a 2020 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) fellow.

The University of Arkansas professor is one of five Arkansans and among 1,228 people worldwide who are fellows, according to the NAI website. The NAI Fellows Program was established to “highlight 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,” the website shows. Sakon has been invited to an induction ceremony June 7-9 in Tampa, Fla.

His selection as a fellow was based on 20 years of research and inventions. He has 10 U.S. patents and five foreign patents, nine of which have been licensed for commercial use. Without the support of companies, the community and the University of Arkansas, Sakon said his inventions wouldn’t have been possible as they have come about through collaboration and discussions with others.

His first invention regarded using bacteria and fungi to break down cellulose fibers from corn stalks or woodchips that are fermented to produce ethanol. He also invented and developed molecules to treat bone diseases, including osteoporosis and bone metastasis, and hair loss from alopecia.

Sakon said his focus area is on protein architecture. Asked which invention was the most important, he said all of them. “I can’t pick my favorite kid,” he joked.

He’s a co-founder of BiologicsMD, which focuses on treating hair loss and bone disease. The company, which started in Fayetteville, relocated its headquarters to Connecticut about three years ago, said Sakon, who’s a company shareholder. Not only has BiologicsMD been licensed to use his inventions but also BP, Genencor, Danisco and DuPont.

Recently, he’s been working to develop a drug that can reach the nucleus of cancer cells to better treat cancer patients. He’s also developing a drug that would improve the healing process of heart tissue after a heart attack.