Justin Baba receives 2023 Battelle Distinguished Inventor recognition

A Vanderbilt University engineering professor affiliated with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been named a Battelle Distinguished Inventor from ORNL. Justin Baba, associate research professor of biomedical engineering, was one of four scientists honored at the Lab’s annual Innovation Awards Dec. 1 in recognition of being granted 14 or more U. S. patents.

Justin Baba

Baba, who was born in Nigeria, becomes the first scientist from ORNL of African origin to be named a Battelle Distinguished Inventor. He joins an elite group of inventors recognized by Battelle, the research firm that co-manages the lab through the UT-Battelle partnership. Since UT-Battelle began managing ORNL in 2000, 97 ORNL researchers have reached this milestone. An etched portrait of Baba will be added to a wall display at ORNL and at Battelle headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

“As there is always a first for everything, I am greatly honored and humbled to be able to achieve this milestone that will hopefully serve to encourage and challenge others to accomplish even greater things,” Baba said.

Baba is associate director of the Vanderbilt Biophotonics Center, a 2022 Engineering Unleashed Fellow, and founder and chief scientific officer for Yaya Scientific, a Nashville-based engineering start-up that develops diagnostic, therapeutic and integrated hardware solutions for biomedical problems.

His research and patent portfolio focus on the development and translation of non- and minimally invasive biomedical sensing, diagnostic, monitoring and therapeutic technologies. Several of his inventions are licensed to industry and have been tested in clinical trials.

“For scientific advancements to improve society, they must be shared with the broader scientific community or moved into the market,” said ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer in a news release announcing the Battelle honorees. “ORNL’s emphasis on doing that is a critical part of the lab’s identity, and it draws partners to work with us. Patenting is a key step to translating lab research to real-world applications.”

Baba worked at ORNL from 2003 to 2018, developing and advancing biomedical applications for DOE’s Office of Science technology portfolio. During his career at ORNL, he held joint faculty appointments at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Vanderbilt University.

He has been recognized for as an Outstanding DOE Mentor and was named 2006 Most Promising Scientist for his early career achievements by Science Spectrum magazine. Baba has received several UT-Battelle Technology Commercialization and UT-Battelle Technology Partnerships Awards.

Baba joined the Vanderbilt School of Engineering in 2019. He earned a Ph.D. in biomedical/medical engineering from Texas A&M University.

Contact: brenda.ellis@vanderbilt.edu