Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Umut Gurkan Elected Senior Member of National Academy of Inventors

Case Western Reserve University engineer and researcher Umut Gurkan has been named a senior member of the August 2020 class of The National Academy of Inventors (NAI).

Gurkan is the Warren E. Rupp Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the Case School of Engineering, where he leads the CASE Biomanufacturing and Microfabrication Laboratory.

He joins a class of NAI senior members from 24 research universities, government and nonprofit research institutes who are named inventors on more than 397 patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Gurkan’s research group works on gaining a fundamental understanding of hemoglobin, red blood cells, blood rheology and microcirculation in health and disease and with targeted therapies and gene-based cures. This research has led to new biomedical microtechnologies that improve patients’ access to timely diagnosis and personalized monitoring of treatments.

Gurkan said he was “privileged and humbled” to be named a senior member of the academy and credited the Case Western Reserve Technology Transfer Office for playing “an essential role in translating our inventions to patents, then from the laboratory to the world.”

“This recognition reflects the entrepreneur, inventive and supportive environment that Cleveland and Case Western Reserve provides for faculty, staff and students,” he said. “I now feel even more motivated to encourage an inventive culture in the classroom, in my research group, department and school.”

Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan, the Charles H. Phipps Dean of the Case School of Engineering, said Gurkan’s election to the academy was a “well-deserved recognition of his successful career as a researcher and mentor. His work in the area of point-of-care diagnostics has led to new, innovative technologies that will have a life-changing impact on patients living with blood disorders. His passion for mentorship will continue to inspire the next generation of Case Western Reserve inventors.”

That passion for mentoring is evident in that 11 of Gurkan’s trainees are now co-inventors in U.S. patents, and national and international patent applications.

Gurkan has also published more than 80 scientific publications and holds numerous U.S. patents and international patent applications. Five of his patents have been licensed and/or commercialized by four companies: DxNow Inc., Xatek Inc., BioChip Labs Inc. and Hemex Health Inc.

One of these technologies won USPTO Patents for Humanity Honorable mention in 2018. It was for a point-of-care test for common hemoglobin disorders, such as sickle cell disease, commercialized under the product name “Gazelle” by Hemex Health. Hemex launched Gazelle globally in advance of World Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Day on June 19.