Newswise — LA JOLLA, Calif. – Dec. 12, 2017 – Jeffery Kelly, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of Molecular Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), has been named a fellow of the esteemed National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the organization announced today.

“My research group seeks to decode the basic principles of how cells generate, fold, traffic and degrade proteins, and from this information we have been fortunate enough to envision therapeutic strategies and discover drugs that slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases and prolong life,” says Kelly, Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Chemistry.

The honor recognizes Kelly’s contributions as an academic researcher, whose work has “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 welfare of society,” according to the NAI.

Kelly’s curiosity-driven, fundamental research in chemistry and biology, has led to insights into the principles of protein folding. Mistakes in protein folding cause gain of toxic functions and loss of physiological functions—which in combination lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Kelly’s work led to the discovery of a drug called tafamidis, the first-ever drug for the treatment of familial amyloid polyneuropathy associated with transthyretin aggregation (TTR-FAP), a fatal disease.

A TSRI faculty member since 2000, Kelly is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and winner of awards from the American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. In addition to his research, he teaches courses in TSRI’s Graduate Program and mentors graduate students in his lab.

Eight drugs have emerged from the fundamental research carried at TSRI over the past 25 years, impressive productivity reflecting the culture of merging fundamental discovery in biology and chemistry with a translational entrepreneurial spirit. 

Nominated by their peers, NAI fellows must be a named inventor on at least one U.S. patent and affiliated with a university, nonprofit research institute or other academic entity. Kelly joins five NAI fellows currently at TSRI: Dale Boger, Ph.D., Chemistry Department co-chair and Richard and Alice Cramer Professor of Chemistry; Benjamin Cravatt, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of Molecular Medicine; Professor Thomas Kodadek Ph.D.; Professor Paul Schimmel, Ph.D.; and Peter G. Schultz, Ph.D., TSRI President and CEO.

Kelly will be officially inducted into the NAI at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on April 5, 2018.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs more than 2,500 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates and 20 members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering or Medicine—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. In October 2016, TSRI announced a strategic affiliation with the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), representing a renewed commitment to the discovery and development of new medicines to address unmet medical needs. For more information, see