Mahnaz Shahidi, PhD

Mahnaz Shahidi, PhD, Morton F. Goldberg Professor of Ophthalmology, has been named the 2012 University of Illinois at Chicago Inventor of the Year.

The Inventor of the Year Award honors an outstanding inventor or team of inventors who have made a contribution to the development of intellectual property at UIC with the potential to make a significant impact.

Dr. Shahidi, who holds a PhD in Atomic and Molecular Physics from UIC, was selected by the award committee for invention of an optical imaging device (EyeFlow) that measures blood flow in the conjunctiva of the eye.  The EyeFlow device provides a quick and cost effective means to diagnose and screen patients who are at risk of stroke, the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of severe long-term disability in the United States.

Dr. Shahidi joined the Ophthalmology faculty in 1990, following a postdoctoral fellowship in the area of ocular optical imaging, and became the director of the Applied Physics Laboratory.  She was named the Morton F. Goldberg Professor of Ophthalmology in 2009 and Vice Chair and Director of Research in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in 2010.  Dr. Shahidi’s laboratory has pioneered the development of several novel imaging techniques by utilizing methods and analytical procedures of physics and biomedical engineering.  Application of these technologies has advanced knowledge and improved the diagnosis, treatment and understanding of blinding eye disease.  Recently, a U.S. patent was issued for one of Dr. Shahidi’s inventions, an imaging technique for quantitative mapping of retinal oxygen tension.

“Dr. Shahidi’s research highlights the critical role biomedical engineering plays in potentially preventing vision loss and blindness caused by various retinal diseases including diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and sickle cell retinopathy,” stated Dr. Rohit Varma, Chairman of the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, UIC Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

“This intersection of biomedical engineering and medical care is where we will make significant advances in health care in the 21st century,” he continued.  “Dr. Shahidi’s invention is an excellent example of such work and in this instance has the potential to identify patients at high risk for debilitating stroke and even preventing it.”

The National Eye Institute (NEI) has supported Dr. Shahidi’s vision research program since 1991, as a co-investigator, and as a principal investigator on several research projects since 1996.  She is currently the PI on an NEI-funded research grant, Noninvasive Chorioretinal Oxygen Tension Imaging, and also directs another major research project, Investigating  Optical and Neural Causes of Vision Loss, supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs.   Dr. Shahidi has served as the director of the Imaging Module of the department’s NEI Core Grant for Vision Research since 1998.  Throughout her career, Dr. Shahidi has been successful in attracting support for innovative technology-driven research projects from a number of private foundations.  In 2008, she received the coveted Senior Scientific Investigator Award from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc., the leading private sponsor of vision research.  Her research findings have been published in over 70 original peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, and she has given over 100 presentations of her work at national and international scientific meetings.  She currently serves on a scientific review panel for NEI.

“I am honored to be selected for this prestigious award,” said Dr. Shahidi.  “There are many inventions being made by outstanding faculty on the UIC campus and supported by an excellent team in the Office of Technology Management.  Recognition of individuals for their innovative achievements encourages development of technologies that can impact the scientific field and benefit society,” she added.

Dr. Shahidi will be presented with the 2012 UIC Inventor of the Year Award at a ceremony to be held on February 20, 2013.