Educator Wins Global Award
UTD professor wins inventors honors
Allan Dean Sherry will be named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors on Jun. 27 in Washington D.C. among other prestigious inventors.
A retired pioneer in modern imaging agents and the founder of the specialized international molecular supplier Macrocyclics, Sherry has been granted the highest honor for his 34 world changing patents. Sherry’s work was previously recognized with high honors from the World Molecular Imaging Society, the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
Some of his most notable patents include bifunctional polyaza macrocyclic chelating (BFC) agents and magnetic resonance reagents (MRR). The BFC agents have uses in therapeutic medicine in all primate mammals, as they contain a complex covalent that has significantly advanced nuclear imaging in animals. The MRR is one of the most effective methods of sensitive detection and imaging in MRI scans across the world.
One of Sherry’s most remarkable inventions came early in his career to revolutionize the field of radiology. This patent came after Sherry’s work with Nobel Prize winner Paul Lauterbur, whose work led to the development of the MRI.
“The very first patent that I wrote was on a complex called Gadolinium Dota, and without worrying about what the structure is, turns out to be a very stable, really an excellent MRI contrast agent,” said Sherry. “That compound, now after the university’s patent ran out, is now the largest selling contrast agent in the world and certainly in the United States. It makes impacts every day.”
To this day, Macrocyclics is one of two officially recognized specialized molecular suppliers for nuclear radiology in the world and serves 2,000 loyal customers a year.
“It’s something to be said about being the first in the field. Being the early company out there,” Sherry said. “For, I say, the first five years, [Macrocyclics] were the only ones doing what we did and making these bifunctional chelates available.”
The National Academy of Inventors only accepts the highest professional inventors from across the world into their membership of fellows. These individuals are responsible for inventions with a tangible impact on economic development and the welfare of human species. Sherry’s own award commemorates his 50 years of experience in an array of subjects.
Having retired in 2022, Sherry has contributed to over 473 published studies exploring chemistry, biochemistry and radiology. He first arrived to UTD as an assistant professor in 1972, became an associate professor in 1976 and assumed his role as head of the chemistry department in 1979. It wasn’t until 1982 that Sherry began teaching, with his research focusing heavily on the complex biochemistry of physiology and metabolism. This le d Sherry to teach radiology at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in 1991 while continuing his lectures at UTD.
Sherry served as the Cecil and Ida Green Honors Chair in 2003 before becoming Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology from 2005 until retirement. In this position, he began the Green Fellows program offered jointly between UTD and UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, which provided a fully paid undergraduate research fellowship to 297 students. Before his late retirement, Sherry served as the interim dean of the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics starting in 2020.
In reference to his early career, Sherry said that once you publish a patent, companies suddenly start to pay attention to you, which is how he gained recognition in industrial circles —particularly with companies who were developing contrast agents.
“And so all of a sudden a company started, you know, contacting me and saying, you know, ‘would you work with us?’ And so they would give me money to do research,” Sherry said. “You know, I think for about 15 years, I ran my entire research group at UTD without ever writing a grant application. They just gave me money and said ‘do whatever you want,’ and the only thing I had to give them back in return was if we discovered something important.”
Sherry was succeeded as Dean for the School of Natural Science & Mathematics by David Hyndman and hopes the school’s love of learning continues even in his absence.
“So it’s often inspired by students. I mean, students are so much fun to be around, you know, because they’re inspiring,” Sherry said, “I think that’s something that students don’t realize that they are actually making an impact in, [that] they may say something that may not make entire sense to them, but it causes someone else in the lab to say ‘ohh, you know, that might be a good idea,’ so we go off and try something new, right?”