Chemistry Professor Jeff Anker Named Senior Member of National Academy of Inventors

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Clemson University College of Science professor of chemistry Jeff Anker, whose collaborative research exemplifies the creative vision of an entrepreneurial inventor, has been named a Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Anker is one of 54 academic inventors from around the nation and world who were honored in the spring 2019 class. Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from member institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society, according to the NAI.

Anker, the Wallace R. Roy Distinguished Associate Professor in analytical chemistry at Clemson University, has a history of forming teams to develop innovative ideas at the boundaries between disciplines that include chemistry, bioengineering, microbiology and medicine.

“When I was a young boy, I wanted to be an inventor when I grew up,” said Anker, who has four licensed patents involving sensors and has been awarded more than a dozen federal grants. “As I grew older, however, I learned that ‘inventor’ was not a conventional occupation. So I became a chemistry professor. But this gave me a chance to keep developing new ideas – especially biomedical sensors – and now I’m delighted and honored to be elected a Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors.”

For the past several years, Anker has worked closely with physicians at Prisma Health, including at a radiology symposium earlier this year that drew more than 100 health care professionals, researchers and students to Greenville to learn how radiology can be used to focus on physiological changes that can be detected or measured by sensors. He was selected to serve as a Clemson University School of Health Research Faculty Fellow at Prisma Health to learn how physicians use implants and how radiography guides clinical decisions. This was critical to how Anker eventually tailored his inventions and research to address real needs in a translatable way.

“Dr. Anker’s research is the quintessential example of translational science,” said Windsor Sherrill, associate vice president for health research at Clemson University. “His work in health research is making a real impact at both Clemson and with our Prisma Health partners.”

Anker was nominated by Apparao Rao, founding director of the Clemson Nanomaterials Institute and associate dean for discovery in the College of Science. Rao was named a Fellow of the NAI in 2018. Clemson University’s Ken Marcus of chemistry and John Ballato of materials science and engineering were named Fellows in 2017 and 2015, respectively.

“Remarkably, the sensors developed by Dr. Anker are read with plain radiography, a technique that is readily available in hospitals and routinely used to follow orthopedic patients but that has insufficient sensitivity to detect minute changes in hardware bending under load which indicates bone fracture healing,” said Rao in his letter of nomination to the NAI selection committee. “Dr. Anker has developed prototypes to measure bending in orthopedic plates, screws and intervertebral spacers. He is also developing sensors for measuring local chemical concentrations to detect implant-associated infections early when they can be treated more conservatively.”

According to the NAI, the spring 2019 class of Senior Members represents 32 research universities and government and nonprofit research institutes. Furthermore, they are named inventors on more than 860 U.S. patents.

“Dr. Anker is an outstanding member of our department. He is a prolific researcher, a dedicated teacher and an excellent colleague,” said Bill Pennington, chair of the department of chemistry. “Jeff brings in a tremendous amount of research funding, and is highly regarded for his work at the interface of materials and chemical biology. In addition to his productive research with Prisma Health, he has worked tirelessly to help his colleagues establish connections with the medical team at Prisma.”