Ford, Six Others Join Florida's Inventors Hall of Fame

Oct 2, 2015

What does it take to get a world renowned scientist to channel his inner "Wayne Campbell" from the 1990's comedy sketch, "Wayne's World?"

In Dr. Paul Sanberg's case, it's being chosen for induction into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.

"I think it's Saturday Night Live, where a guy goes 'I'm not worthy!' or something, that's what it feels like," Sanberg said with a laugh.

The senior  vice president of University of South Florida Research, Innovation and Economic Development is one of seven innovators being inducted into the Hall Friday night at a sold-out ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tampa.

Researcher, inventor and administrator Dr. Paul Sanberg will be inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame Friday night in Tampa.
Credit USF

Sanberg, who holds over 100 U.S. patents, came up with the idea for the Hall of Fame, and now serves on the Hall's Advisory Board.

He says he removed himself from the selection procedure when he was nominated. But his selection wasn't because of his ties to the Hall - it's because of the research he's done.

"I think what the committee saw was my work in adult stem cells, in various understanding of how cell therapy can work in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, for the work we've done in various therapies in stroke - these are, I think very important, it's the future of regenerative medicine and how to treat these diseases that we've not been able to do so before."

He'll be joined in the Hall's second class by six other inventors, led by automotive and manufacturing pioneer Henry Ford.

Sanberg points out Ford conducted a number of experiments in Fort Myers with one of last year's inductees, Thomas Edison.

"They did a lot of work on rubber, on new materials, on plants and various things, but of course, Henry Ford was very interested in mechanical issues, related to rubber and tires and things like that," he said. "I think they even had a strong relationship with Harvey Firestone down there as well, and so the three of them would get together and think of new ideas."

Also being inducted are:

  • Robert Grubbs, educated at the University of Florida and currently the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, for contributions in the field of chemistry that have led to the creation of practical, sustainable new materials in medicine and the plastics industry. He is the recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • Robert Holton, professor of chemistry at Florida State University, for the invention of the chemical synthesis of Taxol, a widely-utilized and highly-effective anti-cancer drug.
  • Jerry Pratt, senior research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, for contributions to robotics and human assistive devices, especially in the humanoid bipedal locomotion field.
  • Nan-Yao Su, professor of entomology at the University of Florida, for the invention of Sentricon®, which revolutionized termite colony elimination systems and has protected millions of structures through a safer and greener approach to termite control.
  • Janet Yamamoto, professor of immunology at the University of Florida, for the discovery of the deadly feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), the FIV vaccine, and for furthering research on the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. Yamamoto is the first female inductee into the Hall.

Florida Inventors Walk of Fame, displaying the plaques of the Hall's members, is on the Tampa campus of USF.
Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

Combined, the seven inventors hold a total of more than 430 U.S. patents.

"We've worked on this stuff because of a love of doing science and doing discovery and invention," said Sanberg, Founder and President of the National Academy of Inventors. "I've worked on trying to get inventors and academics across the state known and it really wasn't about myself getting into (the Hall), so, now that it's there, it's humbling."

Since inducting the inaugural class of six last year, the Hall of Fame has opened up a physical location - a Walk of Fame displaying the members' plaques - outside USF's Interdisciplinary Research Building on the Tampa campus.