Loboa and Stacey named National Academy of Inventors Fellows

Story by: Ryan Owens and Roger Meissen

Dec. 11, 2018

Photos of two new NAI Fellows from MU

Mizzou has added two more researchers and scholars to the National Academy of Inventors Fellow’s ranks.

Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the MU College of Engineering, and Gary Stacey, professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and a Bond Life Sciences Center primary investigator, received the honor from the NAI and will be formally inducted in a ceremony in April in Houston.

“This recognition demonstrates the innovative spirit that University of Missouri researchers embody to help the advancement of science,” MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said. “Dean Loboa and Dr. Stacey’s contributions impact the quality of life for Missourians, as well as the broader global community. Their spirit helps make our institution such a great place to learn, work and collaborate, while validating MU as one of America’s leading research universities.”

Loboa and Stacey were selected for demonstrating “highly prolific spirits of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.”

“Dean Loboa and Dr. Stacey have made outstanding and innovative contributions in their respective fields of research, as is evidenced by their selection as NAI Fellows,” said Mark McIntosh, vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and economic development at MU and vice president of research and economic development for the UM System. “Being named a Fellow helps enhance the types of research conducted at the university while mentoring the next generation of undergraduates and graduates and improving the lives of citizens in our state, region, nation and the world.”


Elizabeth Loboa

The dean joins a group of some of the world’s top researchers, including several from MU. Mizzou Engineering faculty members Shubhra Gangopadhyay and Sheila Grant are NAI Fellows, as is MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright.

“I am honored to be chosen as an NAI Fellow, and I want to thank Chancellor Cartwright for nominating me for such an incredible honor,” Loboa said. “I am proud to have the opportunity to represent both MU and Mizzou Engineering as a member.”

NAI Fellows are members of a prestigious group that holds more than 32,000 U.S. patents, has created more than 9,400 technologies and/or companies and has generated nearly $140 billion in revenue from their discoveries. The 912 fellows represent some of the globe’s most well-renowned universities and research institutes.

To be selected, potential fellows must be nominated for induction by current NAI Fellows, must be named an inventor on at least one patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and must be affiliated with a university or non-profit research institute. Approved applications are selected by an NAI advisory committee.

Loboa has worked tirelessly to promote innovation and world-class research as Dean of Mizzou Engineering. In her new role as MU Vice Chancellor for Strategic Partnerships, she is helping to make the cutting-edge Translational Precision Medicine Complex a reality, which will impact the lives of countless Missourians and people all around the world.

Her own research has led to breakthroughs in tissue engineering and biomaterials, regenerative medicine and wound healing. Loboa has developed new methods of treating MRSA, uncovered key information about osteoporosis in older women, helped make tissue engineering cheaper and more scalable through a novel scaffolding process and much more.

In addition to being a newly-minted NAI Fellow, Loboa is also a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.


Gary Stacey

Science and invention are both about discovering the possibilities in something.

Those possibilities can create something new that improves the lives of people and advances our understanding of the world.

It’s no surprise that Gary Stacey is being recognized this year as one of 148 academic fellows by the National Academy of Inventors.

“I am very proud to welcome another class of outstanding NAI Fellows, whose collective achievements have helped shape the future and who each day work to improve our world,” said Paul R. Sanberg, President of the NAI. “Each of these new NAI Fellows embodies the Academy’s mission through their dedication, creativity and inventive spirit. I look forward to working collaboratively with the new NAI Fellows in growing a global culture of innovation.”

Stacey has spent years focused on the basic science behind biological phenomena including the relationship between bacteria and the roots of nitrogen-fixing plants. His work has explored the specifics of how plants can benefit from interacting with particular bacterium like Bradyrhizobium japonicum. “This bacterium infects the roots of soybean and established a beneficial, nitrogen fixing symbiosis,” said Stacey, a Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Plant Science in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “The two patents that describe these discoveries formed the basis for the Optimize product, which is now sold by Novozymes.”

When seeds of soybeans or other legumes are treated with Optimize, it encourages what’s natural by giving the future plant the opportunity to build a beneficial relationship with the bacterium. The bacterium infects the roots and creates nodules that “fix” atmospheric nitrogen, providing food for the plant that replaces some need for fertilizer. This improves plant growth and yield in an environmentally-friendly way and leaves us in a better position to feed the world in a sustainable fashion.

While his research has a significant potential economic plus side, Stacey points out that understanding the basic mechanisms underpinning how these plants and bacteria interact.

“Our goals are not to develop intellectual property or products, however, we remain cognizant of any possible applications of our research,” he said. “Beyond the exhilaration of making a basic discovery, it is also gratifying when you see the result of your labors being put to practical use as things move from discovery, through translation to ultimate application. I have been lucky in my career to be able to traverse this full spectrum of research.”

With 13 patents to his name, Stacey’s curiosity has allowed his science to thrive at MU.

“A research lab at a major university is really equivalent to a small business — with 20 employees my lab would qualify in the upper 50 percent of all small businesses in Missouri — and I encounter many of the same issues that any small business would have,” Stacey said. “I relish the challenge of being a scientist in which you are tested in so many ways…as an innovator, organizer, manager, communicator and entrepreneur.”


Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to 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.There are now over 1,000 NAI Fellows, representing more than 250 research universities and government and non-profit research institutes. The 2018 Fellows are named inventors on nearly 4,000 issued U.S. patents.