A bald man wearing a light gray button down shirt, darker gray tie, and glasses looking to the right.
Michael Hindle, Ph.D., the Peter R. Byron Distinguished Professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy, is working with the Aerosol Research Group he leads to create new ways to deliver aerosols to some of the most challenging patient populations. (Allen Jones, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

National Academy of Inventors names Michael Hindle an NAI fellow

Prestigious honor marks a milestone for Hindle, who leads the Aerosol Research Group on the MCV Campus of VCU.

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When Michael Hindle, Ph.D., heard the National Academy of Inventors had selected him as one of 169 distinguished academic inventors to be NAI fellows, he was humbled.

The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a 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. Election as a NAI fellow is the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors who are highly regarded in their respective fields.

The 2022 class of fellows will be inducted at the Fellows Induction Ceremony at the 12th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors on June 27 in Washington, D.C.

Hindle, who leads the Aerosol Research Group on the MCV Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University and holds the Peter R Byron Distinguished Professorship in the VCU School of Pharmacy, said the honor reflected the successful collaboration of the pharmacy-engineering team for the past 15 years.

“Inventions take teams, and this recognition represents an honor for all the co-inventors on our patents together with our postdocs and graduate students who drive the research which leads to new patentable discoveries,” Hindle said. “I also looked at the names of the other VCU fellows – I am in great company, and now we have eight NAI fellows at VCU, and I am proud to be the first from the VCU School of Pharmacy.”

Hindle and his team in the Aerosol Research Group have both pharmaceutical expertise and device engineering expertise led by Worth Longest, Ph.D., in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering in the School of Engineering.

“It is appropriate to fully acknowledge the research partnership with my collaborator Dr. Longest,” Hindle said. “We have developed a successful synergy utilizing Worth’s strong engineering background and design innovation combined with my practical pharmaceutical formulation skills. The resulting research has been successful in developing platform technologies with the potential to increase the efficiency of pulmonary drug delivery.”

Developing formulations and devices to improve aerosol delivery

The group’s initial inventions have focused on developing platform formulations and devices to achieve improved aerosol delivery.

“Now we are focused on adapting these inventions to deliver aerosols to some of the most challenging patient populations,” Hindle said.

Currently, the lab is working on surfactant formulations and devices that will be delivered as an aerosol to critically ill premature babies who are born without an ability to produce their own surfactant, which is crucial to lung function.  

“Delivering powder aerosols to these babies is particularly challenging as their lungs are fragile, and they have a very small lung capacity,” Hindle said.

The surfactant aerosol delivery project has the potential to alter clinical practice, he said.

“Noninvasively administering this lifesaving surfactant treatment in a rapid and painless way to these sick infants has been a target for many years. We are getting closer to turning this into reality using our inventions,” Hindle said. “Our work funded by the National Institute of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has the potential to impact not only neonates in the U.S., but also provide a simple treatment option for babies born prematurely in low- and middle-income countries.”

The designation as a NAI fellow will help Hindle and his team with their work.

“Intellectual property was something that as a pharmaceutical scientist I was always taught had great value,” Hindle said. “My mentors instilled in me a drive to innovate in a translatable way to improve how we deliver aerosols to the lungs. And, of course, to file patents to protect those innovations. I hope that being recognized as a fellow will allow me to mentor our next generation scientists to both innovate and protect their inventions.”

Becoming a NAI fellow was a milestone

Becoming a fellow with the academy is a major milestone in his 25-year career, said Hindle, a native of the United Kingdom.

His love of chemistry took hold when he was a child and was given a chemistry set.

“Those were my earliest memories of playing with a Bunsen burner and being the first to try something to see what happens, often at the expense of burns in the carpet or on my clothes,” he said. 

He saw pharmacy and the pharmaceutical sciences as a perfect career, one that had many potential routes, he said.

“I enjoy being the first to make something new work. There is nothing like that initial breakthrough after weeks of struggling and seeing something work,” he said. “My enthusiasm for bench research and solving analytical, formulation and drug delivery challenges remains undiminished and not a day goes by without me being in the lab to see what is going on.”