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Trigaux: Scientific proof that inventive Florida excels at more than suntans, spring breaks

Hall of Fame inductee Paul Sanberg, who works at the University of South Florida on therapies for stroke and brain disease, shows off his work to former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottcamp and former Gov. Charlie Crist. 
Published Apr. 7, 2015

Want proof that Florida can be celebrated for more than suntans and spring breaks?

Consider the seven innovators for 2015 just announced as inductees into the fledgling Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.

Sure, everyone will fixate on Henry Ford, one of the uber-familiar fathers of the American automotive industry and the first name listed among these magnificent seven inductees. Ford spent his later winters in Fort Myers as a neighbor, friend and sounding board on inventing with Thomas Edison, one of the inaugural year inductees last year to the hall of fame.

But the other inductees are still busy inventing, having already created innovations in the fight against cancer, the spread of damaging termites and HIV.

While only one U.S. patent is required to be considered for the hall of fame, the seven 2015 inductees collectively hold more than 430 U.S. patents.

"These were very inventive people," Paul Sanberg, senior vice president for research, innovation and economic development at the University of South Florida, said in an interview. Sanberg, an inventor on 109 U.S. and foreign patents, is one of those seven inductees this year, named for his discovery of novel approaches to drug and cell therapies to treat stroke and brain diseases and for founding the National Academy of Inventors.

Sanberg says he decided to found a place to celebrate Florida inventors after he toured the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He was surprised to see so few Floridians represented. Last year, the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame opened with six initial inductees, including Edison.

Sanberg hopes the attention paid to Florida inventors via a state hall of fame will raise their profile nationally, attract more investment money to the state and encourage more young Floridians to pursue their innovative ideas. He points with pride to the volume of patents recently generated at the universities across Central Florida, which outnumber the higher profile "Research Triangle" universities of Duke, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State.

"So there are a lot of innovative things besides great tourism in Florida," Sanberg says.

The inventors were nominated through an open process and elected by a selection committee of research and innovation leaders across the state headed by Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and a member of the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame advisory board.

The seven inventors will be inducted in Tampa at the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame second annual ceremony and gala in October.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigauxc@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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