MU Researcher Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Haval Shirwan Lab
Haval Shirwan’s research at the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health Building focuses on cures for immune-based disorders.

A professor of pediatrics and molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine has joined the ranks of the most prestigious academic inventors in the country. Today, the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) announced the election of Haval Shirwan, PhD to the rank of NAI Fellow.

Haval Shirwan, PhD
Haval Shirwan, PhD

NAI Fellows have demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.

Shirwan, who is also the director of division of pediatric research and associate director of immunomodulation and regenerative medicine at MU Health Care’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, is a widely recognized leader for his immune system research at the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health Building. Along with his colleague and wife Esma Yolcu, PhD, Shirwan developed a proprietary platform technology known as ProtEx™ that allows the generation of novel biologics and their use to train the immune system not to self-destruct, with the aim of preventing cancer development and infections as well as protecting transplants from rejection. Shirwan is an inventor on 27 issued and 11 pending patents and founder/co-founder of three biotech startups.

“I am delighted and humbled to be recognized by some of the leading academic inventors in the nation,” said Shirwan. “My election is not just a personal achievement but a celebration of collective creativity and inventive thinking, and a testament to the support I’ve received throughout my scientific career from my mentors, colleagues, trainees, with special acknowledgment of support and creative input of my long-time collaborator Dr. Esma Yolcu.”

Esma Yolcu, PhD
Esma Yolcu, PhD

Shirwan worked with Yolcu to design a molecule that trains the immune system to survey the body for cells that may develop into cancer and eradicate them before cancer takes hold in the body, a transformative finding that provides ground for preventive approaches against cancer.  Last year, Shirwan’s team was awarded $3.2 million from the National Institutes of Health to assist in the development of a treatment for Type 1 diabetes that does not require several insulin injections each day.

“As academic inventors, we are called to save and improve lives,” said Shirwan. “This honor encourages and energizes me to continue striving to have a positive impact on the lives of future academic inventors who share my dream of solving chronic diseases.”

Shirwan will be formally inducted as an NAI Fellow at the organization’s annual conference on June 18, 2024 in Raleigh, NC.

NextGen Precision Health Institute logo

Highlighting the promise of personalized health care and the impact of large-scale interdisciplinary collaboration, the NextGen Precision Health initiative is bringing together innovators from across the University of Missouri and the UM System’s three other research universities in pursuit of life-changing precision health advancements. It’s a collaborative effort to leverage the research strengths of Mizzou toward a better future for the health of Missourians and beyond. The Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building at MU anchors the overall initiative and expands collaboration between researchers, clinicians and industry partners in the state-of-the-art research facility.