Gennaro is the 10th Rutgers professor to receive the honor.

Maria Laura ‘Marila’ Gennaro, a professor of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a professor of epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health, has been named a National Academy of Inventors Fellow, which is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific 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.

 “We are thrilled for Marila to receive this recognition for the research she has conducted and the innovations she has developed,” said Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak, associate vice president of Innovation Ventures, part of Rutgers Office for Research. “For many years, Marila’s team has been working to advance discoveries around infectious disease and specifically tuberculosis (TB) that have been instrumental to improving diagnosis and treatment of TB. More recently, her research on the antibody response to COVID-19, alongside other Rutgers colleagues, continues to help us gain a better understanding of how to combat the disease.”

“Our work has always looked for connections between basic and translational research, and I have been lucky to work in institutions that have promoted novelty and innovation,” said Gennaro. “I am honored that National Academy of Inventors has recognized the value of this effort and selected me as an NAI Fellow.”

“It has been an honor for me to work with Dr. Gennaro, who is an incredible scholar, conducting timely and innovative work,” said Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “Her contributions to the study of infectious diseases, particularly TB and COVID-19, will certainly help address any future pandemics.”

“Tuberculosis infections can hide in the body for years, only to emerge and cause serious illness, death and transmission of this disease to others. Dr. Gennaro's inventions have been critical for the development of new, better and more accurate test for this type of infection. This work and others covering a diverse set of infectious diseases have and will continue to improve health globally ” said David Alland, director of the Public Health Research Institute, Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, Rutgers Regional Bio-containment Laboratory, and Center for Emerging Pathogens, as well as professor of medicine and the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Gennaro, who recently participated in the Innovation Ventures Road to Commercialization webinar License to an Existing Company or Launch a Startup, has focused her research on infectious diseases, particularly TB and COVID-19. She and her team have pursued both fundamental and translational studies on the stress responses of host and pathogen in tuberculosis, on new methods and platforms for tuberculosis diagnostics, and on antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Her TB research contributed to the development of a blood test that distinguishes between TB infection and Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination against TB, leading to a more definitive and accurate diagnosis faster and more efficiently than previous tests.

More recently, using the knowledge gained through her research into TB, Gennaro and her colleagues at Rutgers’ Public Health Research Institute developed laboratory tests to detect antibodies generated against the viral protein that allows the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter human cells. These antibody tests have been used in a joint study with the School of Public Health seeking to understand the spread of COVID-19 in a diverse local community and with investigators at the RWJ Medical School to monitor the response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination in Rutgers health care workers.

Among other projects, Gennaro’s lab currently serves as the serological core for the pediatric RECOVER cohort, an NIH-funded initiative on long COVID in children. Over the years, Gennaro’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Union, and several intramural and privately sponsored awards.

The 2022 class of Fellows will be honored and presented their medals at the 12th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors on June 27, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Rutgers Professors Selected as NAI Fellows:

  • Joachim Kohn, 2013
  • Richard Mammone, 2013
  • Nicholi Vorsa, 2014
  • Richard Frenkiel, 2015
  • Martin Yarmush, 2015
  • Richard Riman, 2017
  • Edmond LaVoie, 2018
  • Joachim Messing, 2018
  • Yingying Chen, 2021
  • Maria Gennaro, 2022