Chemist Who Helped Develop Singulair
Joins Elite Group of 2018 Fellows
MELBOURNE, FLA. — Joshua Rokach, a professor in Florida Tech’s Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and Sciences who has drawn worldwide recognition for achieving the first syntheses of major inflammatory mediators such as leukotrienes and lipoxins that are responsible for asthma and rhinitis, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the organization recently announced.
Rokach, a chemist who has been at Florida Tech since 1989, joins a 2018 class of 147 renowned academic inventors from top universities and research agencies worldwide, including CalTech, M.I.T., Harvard University, Georgia Tech and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The 2018 class of Fellows represent 125 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide and are named inventors on nearly 4,000 issued U.S. patents.
Rokach has 119 patents in the U.S. and internationally. Among them are three patents jointly owned by Florida Tech and McGill University that in July 2018 were licensed to Fairhaven Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian-based start-up company that plans to bring the 5-OXO-ETE receptor antagonist compounds that Rokach developed at Florida Tech into human clinical trials.
Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded 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. The 2018 class of NAI Fellows has made an incredible impact in a variety of fields, including biomedical engineering, laser photonics and computer sciences.
“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.”
Rokach is now part of an elite group of 2018 NAI Fellows that includes five recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology & Innovation and U.S. National Medal of Science; three Nobel Laureates; two inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame; 59 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and more than 25 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes.
To date, there are over 1,000 NAI Fellows who have generated more than 11,000 licensed technologies and companies, created more than 1.4 million jobs, and generated over $190 billion in revenue.
“It is an honor to be included in such a distinguished group and I thank the members of the selection committee for their time and deliberation,” Rokach said. “It is always exciting when we can take our research and discoveries beyond the lab and make a difference in society, and I am deeply appreciative of the Academy’s recognition of my efforts over the last five decades. I would also like to acknowledge my close collaborators, William S. Powell at McGill University and Garret A. FitzGerald at University of Pennsylvania, both of whom have made significant contributions to my research.”
Rokach joined Merck & Co. in 1966 as a senior research chemist, where he was part of a beta-blocker development program that led to the discovery of timolol, an antianginal/ antihypertensive agent used in the drug Blocadren. The same drug was also a unique cure for glaucoma, and it captured a large proportion of the world market in ocular hypertension as Timoptic.
Also at Merck, Rokach also help develop Singulair, an FDA-approved treatment of asthma and allergic rhinitis. The product is used by millions of allergy sufferers and has yearly sales in the billions of dollars. Rokach also developed a nomenclature for isoprostane that is now used universally.
In 1989, Rokach came to Florida Tech, where he analyzes free-radical damage in disease as it relates to Alzheimer’s, and the discovery of isoprostanes and their measurement as an index of free-radical oxidative damage. He is also involved in other research efforts involving challenges such as asthma. He is working on 5-Oxo-ETE, a potent eosinophil chemotactic factor that may be responsible for eosinophil accumulation in the lungs.
His work has been recognized around the world. In 1988, he was awarded the Canadian Society for Chemistry Award for his accomplishments in the fields of organic and bioorganic chemistry. That same year he was awarded the Chinese Academy of Science Award for his contributions to eicosanoid research. In 2011, Rokach was awarded the Gordon Nelson Award, given by the American Chemical Society Orlando Local Section for outstanding achievement in the chemical field.
Those elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.
“Congratulations to the 148 new members of the NAI Fellows program,” said Linda Hosler, deputy program manager at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “I had the honor of serving on the Fellows Selection Committee, and I am confident that this new class of Fellows will play a vital role in furthering the NAI’s mission and shining a light on the indispensable scientific and economic contributions of the world’s inventors.”
Those elected to the rank of NAI Fellow undergo a rigorous nomination and selection process. Once nominated by their peers, the 2018 class of NAI Fellows was evaluated by the 18 members of the 2018 Selection Committee, which encompassed NAI Fellows; U.S. National Medal recipients; AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors; senior officials from the USPTO, the Association of University Technology Managers and the Smithsonian Lemelson Center; National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees and board members; and members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.
Last year, Mary Helen McCay, a University Research Professor at Florida Tech and director of the school’s National Center for Hydrogen Research, was named an NAI Fellow. In 2016, Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay was named an NAI Fellow.
The 2018 NAI Fellows will be inducted as part of NAI’s 8th Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas, on Apr. 11, 2019. USPTO Commissioner for Patents Andrew Hirshfeld will deliver the keynote address. In honor of their outstanding accomplishments, Fellows will receive a special trophy, medal and rosette pin.