Professor Tony Weiss AM has been elected as a Fellow of the United States National Academy of Inventors in recognition of his development and commercialisation of synthetic biomaterials, which can accelerate and improve the repair of human tissue.
For the past two decades, he has pioneered global research into tropoelastin and elastic fibres, which are found in human tissue ranging from the skin to the lungs and arteries. The materials are used to develop synthetic skins and tissues to help in the treatment of burns and other wounds.
The recognition caps off a stellar year for Professor Weiss in which he was also awarded the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, the top national award for excellence in research-based innovation.
He is the first academic from the University of Sydney to be elected to the US Academy and joins just 15 other Australians as a Fellow, including the former Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel and former and current presidents of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Andrew Holmes and Professor Chennupati Jagadish, respectively. There are more than 4000 Fellows of the Academy.
The US National Academy of Inventors Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have “demonstrated a 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”.
Election as an NAI Fellow is accorded solely to academic inventors. To date, NAI Fellows hold more than 48,000 issued US patents, which have generated more than 13,000 licensed technologies and companies and created more than one million jobs in the US. In addition, more than $US3 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI Fellow discoveries.
In 2008, Professor Weiss founded the company Elastagen to commercialise his research and inventions. The company raised $35 million in venture capital and grant funding, completed clinical trials and scaled-up production. Ten years later, Elastagen was sold to one of the world’s biggest biopharmaceutical companies for a total of $334 million, one of the largest transactions ever completed in Australia’s life science sector.
Professor Weiss said: “I am absolutely delighted with this special recognition. This is a great way to celebrate our innovative culture at the University of Sydney’s remarkable Charles Perkins Centre.”
He will be inducted into the US National Academy of Inventors at a meeting of the academy in Phoenix, Arizona, in June 2022. He will be the only academic from an Australian institution elected this year out of 116 new fellows.