Outstanding faculty are critical to the University of Houston’s performance as a Tier One university. As leaders in their fields, they make things happen in the lab, in society and across the globe. UH national academy members exemplify the intelligence, insight and allegiance to higher education found throughout the University’s faculty base.
The most recent addition to the University’s list of National Academy of Inventors (NAI) fellows was Diana Shu-Lian Chow, professor of pharmaceutics and director of the Institute of Drug Education and Research at UH. Elected to the 2015 Class of NAI Fellows, Chow is known for her work to develop innovative pharmaceutical formulations and drug delivery systems.
Chow and her collaborators developed an intravenous formulation, called Parenteral Busulfan, which has dramatically improved the safety of stem cell transplants for leukemia patients. Used in more than 65 percent of all transplants for acute leukemia patients in North America, it has cut the rate of transplant-related complications in the first three months to less than 5 percent, compared with up to 45 percent before. Additionally, the one-year mortality rate has dropped to less than 10 percent, compared with more than 50 percent previously.
She and her co-inventors developed the drug as an intravenous injection that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999. They were named 2009 Inventor of the Year by the Houston Intellectual Property Lawyers Association for the work.
“When we first learned about the clinical impact of Busulfan, we were really inspired,” she said. “We’re in the Texas Medical Center, so we can work with physicians and scientists to solve clinical problems.”
Ramanan Krishnamoorti, interim vice president and vice chancellor for research and technology transfer at UH, echoes that sentiment, saying that while “creating knowledge is the basic role of academic research, we are also interested in work that translates to real improvements for health care and other issues important to modern life.”
With 10 issued or pending patents, much of Chow’s work has been with anti-cancer agents. In addition to Busulfan, she holds patents for parenteral and oral formulations of benzimidazoles, a drug used to treat lung cancer, as well as a patent for liposomal formulations of polymaxin B, used to treat pulmonary infections.
In addition to now being an NAI Fellow, Chow is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American College of Clinical Pharmacology and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, among other organizations.
The very spirit that drives Chow is what motivates many academic researchers. Among them are two National Academy fellows who, after long careers at other institutions, were attracted to UH for the dedication the University’s faculty demonstrates to research preeminence, scholarly distinction and excellence in teaching. Maurice Brookhart came to the Department of Chemistry in UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics last fall, and Andrea Prosperetti came just this summer to the UH Cullen College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The Right Chemistry
As someone who continues to be inspired by advances in chemistry, National Academy member Maurice Brookhart came to UH after he retired from a 45-year career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although retired, he had research ideas he wanted to pursue. That’s when his former postdoctoral associate and longtime collaborator Olafs Daugulis, the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry at UH, suggested it might be possible for his mentor to join him as a colleague. The prospect of this sounded promising and, a year later, Brookhart became a part-time UH faculty member, continuing his research as a professor of chemistry.
“This is an ideal situation for me,” Brookhart said. “Professor Daugulis and I work well together, and I expect we can produce some significant research in catalysis. My work in recent years has been highly collaborative, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues, especially the junior faculty in chemistry.”
Noted for his research on organometallic complexes, his work involves fundamental research on the synthetic and mechanistic chemistry of compounds containing metal-carbon bonds. This research focuses on developing new organometallic catalysts for linking together molecules in a process known as olefin polymerization, as well as on developing catalysts to break and functionalize inert carbon-hydrogen and carbon-carbon bonds. The work could lead to more efficient production of some types of plastics and potentially lead to cost savings on an industrial scale, as well as the development of more environmentally friendly products. Several polymer manufacturers are investigating possible applications of his catalysts.
Among his many accolades, Brookhart has received four national American Chemistry Society (ACS) awards – the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry, the Arthur C. Cope Award, the ACS Award in Polymer Chemistry and the ACS Gabor A. Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.
An Investment in Success“The investments that UH is making in its faculty and its infrastructure are a clear indication of the far-sighted vision of its leaders.”
Andrea Prosperetti is an internationally respected expert on the mechanical properties of bubbles and known for his work in the field of multiphase flows, including bubble dynamics and cavitation. Multiphase flows are flows in which solid, liquid and gas phases are simultaneously present. This has significant applications in Houston’s oil industry.
“What comes out of a well is not only oil, but a mixture of oil, water, gas and particles,” he explains. “The simultaneous presence of all these components makes the handling and control of the oil flow much more complex than expected and, therefore, presents many challenges.”
His work also has applications in medicine as acoustic contrast agents, with tiny bubbles less than one-tenth of a human hair injected into the blood stream, reflecting and scattering ultrasound waves to permit visualization of blood flow.
A recipient of many honors and awards, Prosperetti was awarded the American Physical Society’s Otto Laporte Award, which is the highest award in fluid dynamics; the EUROMECH Fluid Mechanics Prize, which is administered by the Council of the European Mechanics Society; the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Japan Society of Multiphase Flow; the Silver Medal in Physical Acoustics from the Acoustical Society of America; and the Fluids Engineering Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
“The investments that the University of Houston is making in its faculty and its infrastructure are a clear indication of the far-sighted vision of its leaders,” Prosperetti said. “I look forward to being a part of these exciting developments and to play a role in promoting the University’s success.”
He has been a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2000 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012 for his contributions to the fundamentals and applications of multiphase flows.
Prior to joining UH, Prosperetti spent more than 30 years at Johns Hopkins University, as well as serving nearly 20 years as a part-time faculty member at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. He is a single author of approximately 40 and co-author of more than 160 papers in refereed journals. He also authored two textbooks for graduate-level engineers.
At UH, he will be collaborating with researchers in both mechanical and chemical engineering in the areas of fluid mechanics and heat transfer, as well as with the Department of Mathematics. He also is assuming the role of director for the Center for Advanced Computing and Data Systems for which he envisions a major role in the education and research mission of UH.