Distinguished University Professor Lai-Xi Wang Elected to the National Academy of Inventors

Lai-Xi Wang, a Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, has been elected to the National Academy of Inventors’ (NAI) 2023 Class of Fellows, joining the ranks of some of the nation’s most prestigious and creative academic inventors.

“Congratulations to Distinguished University Professor Wang on this outstanding achievement. This announcement is a clear sign of his accomplishments as a scholar and inventor and the national reputation of the University of Maryland in pursuing scientific research with impact,” said Amitabh Varshney, dean of UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS).

Lai-Xi Wang
Lai-Xi Wang. Credit: Lisa Helfert

Wang is one of 162 new Fellows who represent 118 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide and collectively hold over 4,600 U.S. patents. He and Distinguished University Professor Dinesh Manocha join 12 other faculty and staff members from UMD previously elected to the NAI, which was founded in 2010.

“I am deeply honored to be selected as an NAI fellow,” Wang said. “It’s an important recognition of the hard work, creativity and innovative spirit of the Wang Lab in the past two decades. I appreciate my department, CMNS and the university for providing an outstanding platform for us to do both basic and translational research and to educate the next generation of scientists, scholars and inventors.”

Wang is a leading carbohydrate chemist known for his expertise in glycoscience (the study of carbohydrates), enzymology and immunology. He develops new chemical and biochemical methods for understanding the biological functions of protein glycosylation and glycans, and he applies his research to the development of antibody-based therapeutics and an HIV vaccine.

In 2015, he founded the company GlycoT Therapeutics to develop new therapeutic technologies to fight human disease. The company has been awarded six Small Business Innovation Research grants in the past five years from the U.S. government, including one to develop an improved anti-inflammatory drug and one to develop site-specific antibody-drug conjugates for cancer therapy.

Wang has been awarded 20 U.S. and 14 foreign patents for his inventive methods and new technologies. He receives significant research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and currently holds three active NIH R01 grants and several other collaborative grants from the NIH and the Department of Defense.

“Lai-Xi Wang is an exemplary researcher, scholar and inventor. I am so pleased to see the importance of his transformative chemoenzymatic technology recognized by the National Academic of Inventors,” said Janice Reutt-Robey, chair of UMD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Wang invented an efficient method for using enzymes to chemically produce antibodies with well-defined, homogeneous sugar groups. This work opened the door for studying how the structure of sugar groups affects antibody function at the molecular level. His method is now being used by researchers throughout the world.

Wang also developed a general platform technology for glycoengineering therapeutic antibodies, which has been widely adopted to produce homogeneously glycosylated antibodies for functional studies and therapeutic development. This method expanded to the production of site-specific antibody-drug conjugates for targeted cancer therapy.

In his HIV research, Wang was among the first to pursue the concept of a carbohydrate-based HIV vaccine. He and colleagues have been working to design an effective vaccine that targets weaknesses in the virus’s envelope glycoprotein structure. Following successful initial tests, they are working with collaborators to test the vaccine candidate in animal models.

Wang is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS). He received the 2014 Melville L. Wolfrom Award and the 2004 Young Investigator Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry from ACS and was inducted into the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars in 2009. Wang also received the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2020 and the Norma M. Allewell Prize in Entrepreneurship in 2021 from CMNS.

“This year’s class of NAI Fellows showcases the caliber of researchers that are found within the innovation ecosystem. Each of these individuals are making significant contributions to both science and society through their work,” NAI President Paul R. Sanberg said. “This new class, in conjunction with our existing Fellows, are creating innovations that are driving crucial advancements across a variety of disciplines and are stimulating the global and national economy in immeasurable ways as they move these technologies from lab to marketplace.”

The 2023 Fellows will be honored and presented their medals at the NAI’s 13th Annual Meeting on June 18, 2024, in Raleigh, North Carolina.