Li-Huei Tsai is shown in profile as she stands smiling at a podium
Li-Huei Tsai speaks at a Picower Institute symposium in 2019 Credit: Rose Lincoln

Tsai elected fellow of National Academy of Inventors

The National Academy of Inventors has selected MIT neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai, Picower Professor of Neuroscience and director of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, as a member of its 2019 class of new fellows.

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,” the organization stated in its announcement.

Tsai’s research focuses on neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Her work has generated a dozen patents, many of which have been licensed by biomedical companies including two startups, Cognito Therapeutics and Souvien Bio Ltd., that have spun out from her and collaborator’s labs. Her team’s innovations include inhibiting an enzyme that affects the chromatin structure of DNA to rescue gene expression and restore learning and memory, and using light and sound stimulation to enhance the power and synchrony of 40Hz gamma rhythms in the brain to reduce Alzheimer’s pathology, prevent neuron death and preserve learning and memory. Each of these promising sets of findings in mice are now being tested in human trials.

“The goal of my lab is to improve our understanding of neurodegenerative disease mechanisms and to develop new therapies that could prevent the suffering of millions of people and their loved ones,” said Tsai who also directs MIT’s Aging Brain Initiative. “A crucial part of that effort is translating promising fundamental findings to the clinic and I’m honored that the NAI has recognized our work toward that goal.”

Tsai joins 22 colleagues from MIT as an NAI fellow, including Materials Science and Engineering Department Head Christopher Schuh, who was also elected this year. Among previously elected fellows are Tsai collaborators Emery N. Brown, a fellow Picower Institute faculty member and Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Computational Neuroscience and Health Sciences & Technology, and Ed Boyden, Y. Eva Tan Professor of Neurotechnology.