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Inventor Spotlight: Daniel Whitehead

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Dr. Daniel Whitehead, an associate professor in the department of chemistry at Clemson University, is revolutionizing chemistry with his research in new reaction methodology, materials chemistry, and bio-organic chemistry. Prior to joining Clemson in 2011, Dr. Whitehead received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Furman University. Whitehead received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2009, where he focused his doctoral studies on the development of an asymmetric chlorolactonization protocol under the mentorship of Professor Babak Borhan. During his time as a postdoctoral fellow at North Carolina State University from 2009 to 2011, Whitehead researched and developed novel therapeutics including anti-biofilm agents, osteoclastogenesis inhibitors, and nanoparticle-drug conjugates for the treatment of HIV infections.

Whitehead is currently working to leverage synthetic organic chemistry through the exploration of a variety of research projects, including a National Science Foundation-funded project focused on the development of enantioselective hypervalent iodine catalysts. In collaboration with other Clemson researchers, Whitehead has also developed a series of biodegradable, functional nanoparticles that are capable of capturing VOC pollutants associated with industrial waste streams.  Along with their many other innovative contributions, the Whitehead group was recently awarded a Technology Maturation Fund grant from the Clemson University Research Foundation for their ongoing work with the Clemson University Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center (EPIC). This collaborative project with Professor Jim Morris in CU Biochemistry and Genetics, focuses on validating a new class of compounds, the diazacyclobutenes, as potential therapeutics for the treatment of infections of eukaryotic pathogens such as Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African Sleeping Sickness. 

In addition to his academic achievements, Dr. Whitehead is passionate about scientific outreach, co-founding a program in 2009 to facilitate laboratory exercises for area homeschool students. He frequently collaborates with an area Montessori pre-primary and primary school to conduct hands-on science experiments, demonstrations, and a week-long science summer camp.

To learn more about Dr. Whitehead, click here.

Inventor Spotlight: Narendra Vyavahere

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Dr. Naren Vyavahare, a Hunter Endowed Chair and Professor of Bioengineering at Clemson University, is transforming healthcare through his research in cardiovascular disease pathology, heart valve biomaterials, site-specific therapies, and extracellular matrix remodeling in tissue regeneration. Growing up in Pune, India, in a middle-income family, Vyavahare believed that education was the key to his and his family’s future. As a result, he earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Pune in 1990. Prior to joining Clemson, Vyavahare served as a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and as a Research Investigator at the University of Michigan.

Since joining the Clemson family, Vyavahare has received more than $34 million in federal funding, including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence project grant that has drawn in more than $25 million since 2009, making it the largest single grant in Clemson’s history. He is currently serving as the director of the South Carolina Bioengineering Center of Regeneration and Formation of Tissues (SC BioCRAFT), and has launched three biotechnology companies based on its work. 

Vyavahare has made major contributions to heart valve implants and understanding the mechanisms of vascular calcification, for which one of his treatments is now clinically usedHis current research, funded by the NIH, focuses on finding targeted treatments to stabilize and restore vascular structures to prevent or reverse calcification, aortic aneurysms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and skin disorders. Vyavahare’s research has been published in over 150 journals and conference proceedings, in 6 book chapters, and has resulted in 13 international and US patents—some of which are now licensed to companies to develop products. In addition to his research, Vyavahare has a passion for developing the next generation of inventors. During his time at Clemson, he has graduated 13 Ph.D. students and 20 M.S. students. 

Helping people continues to be the overarching theme of Vyavahare’s research. He believes that innovative research is the key to improving the lives of millions of people, and as a result, constantly works to make a difference in the world with his research. 

To learn more about Dr. Vyavahare, click here.

Inventor Spotlight: John Ballato

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Dr. John Ballato, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering at Clemson University, is engineering optical fibers for the future and transforming the fundamental pipeline of innovation. Dr. Ballato completed his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University in 1993, where he and his mentor, Elias Snitzer, “the father of the glass laser”, invented a new process for manufacturing optical fibers called the Molten Core Method. This novel approach enhances the number of chemical compounds that can be used to create new optical fibers and, today, is used in more than 40 countries globally. The Molten Core Method has led to the development of numerous technologies and practical applications worldwide. Ballato received his Ph.D. in Ceramic and Materials Engineering from Rutgers University in 1997. During his time as a Ph.D. candidate, Ballato earned 14 patents from his dissertation work. Since then he has received an additional 20 US and foreign patents. 

After joining the Clemson family in 1997 as an assistant professor, Ballato co-founded the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET), a major interdisciplinary research center. Currently, his research focuses on new optical materials and structures for high-value photonic and optoelectronic applications. Additionally, Dr. Ballato’s team develops specialty optical fibers for high energy laser, biomedical, and industrial uses. While at Clemson, he has received over sixty million dollars in grants, contracts, and gifts.

Outside of his academic achievements, Ballato has founded two technology companies. His significant research and numerous contributions to society have earned him a number of honors, among them election into the National Academy of Inventors and the World Academy of Ceramics. In addition to his research, Ballato has worked to mold the next generation of inventors by serving on 120 graduate student thesis committees and teaching over 2,000 students.  

To learn more about Dr. John Ballato, click here.