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Jinming Gao named fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

Nanotechnology and cancer researcher holds numerous U.S. and foreign patents

DALLAS – Dec. 12, 2023 – Jinming Gao, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology, Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, and Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been selected as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) in recognition of his efforts to develop innovative nanotechnology platforms to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Jinming Gao, Ph.D.
Jinming Gao, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology, Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, and Pharmacology at UT Southwestern, holds the Elaine Dewey Sammons Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, in Honor of Eugene P. Frenkel, M.D.

Since its inception in 2012, the NAI Fellows program has grown to include 1,898 researchers and innovators who hold over 63,000 U.S. patents and 13,000 licensed technologies. This year’s class includes 162 inventors from 118 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions worldwide.

“It is an honor to join this talented and accomplished group of international innovators striving to develop new technologies to benefit society,” said Dr. Gao, who is also a Professor in the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Gao holds 16 U.S. patents and 72 foreign patents in the fields of polymer biomaterials, nanoparticle drug delivery, tumor surgical imaging, and cancer immunotherapy. Thirteen of the patents have been licensed to biotech companies.

Dr. Gao’s studies focus on the intersection of nanotechnology and cancer medicine. He and his colleagues in the Gao Lab have developed synthetic polymer nanoparticles that release their payload after entering an acidic environment, like that surrounding cancer cells. The first adaptation of the technology, pegsitacianine, carries fluorescent dyes that illuminate the boundaries of solid tumors for real-time surgical imaging.

This technology was licensed by OncoNano Medicine Inc., a startup co-founded by Dr. Gao and Baran Sumer, M.D., Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at UTSW. It recently completed a phase two clinical trial in cytoreductive surgery of peritoneal metastasis and has received a breakthrough therapy designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a status designed to expedite development and regulatory review of medicines.

Dr. Gao and his colleagues also created PC7A nanoparticles, a “nanovaccine” that has shown promise in preclinical studies. These nanoparticles carry tumor antigens to immune cells, leading to the production of tumor-specific T cells that kill cancer cells. Dr. Gao’s team has also developed nanoparticles that inhibit a protein that cancer cells use to pump out acid to suppress cytotoxic T cells, resulting in improved antitumor immunity and survival in animal models.

“Dr. Gao’s contributions to nanotechnologies focused on cancer hold enormous potential to fight this disease in completely new ways,” said Samuel Achilefu, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UT Southwestern who is also an NAI Fellow.

Dr. Gao joined UT Southwestern in 2005 from Case Western Reserve University, where he served on the faculty for seven years. Before that appointment, he received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1996 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Gao joins four other NAI members at UT Southwestern: Dr. Achilefu; Michael Brown, M.D., Professor of Molecular Genetics, and Joseph Goldstein, M.D., Chair and Professor of Molecular Genetics, winners of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; and Martin Pomper, M.D., Ph.D., Chair and Professor of RadiologyAbd El Kareem Azab, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is a Senior Member. 

Drs. Achilefu, Pomper, and Sumer are all members of the Simmons Cancer Center.

Dr. Achilefu holds the Lyda Hill Distinguished University Chair in Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Brown, a Regental Professor, holds The W. A. (Monty) Moncrief Distinguished Chair in Cholesterol and Arteriosclerosis Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine. Dr. Gao holds the Elaine Dewey Sammons Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, in Honor of Eugene P. Frenkel, M.D. Dr. Goldstein, a Regental Professor, holds the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl, Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine. Dr. Pomper holds the Effie and Wofford Cain Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging. Dr. Sumer holds the T.C. Lupton Family Professorship in Patient Care, in Honor of Dr. John Dowling McConnell and Dr. David Andrew Pistenmaa.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center  

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty members have received six Nobel Prizes and include 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 21 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 3,100 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 120,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 5 million outpatient visits a year.