Tarleton researcher to be inducted into National Academy of Inventors

By Patty Hullett
For the Empire-Tribune
Tarleton State University professor Dr. Bill McCutchen, pictured here giving a presentation, will be presented as an inductee into the National Academy of Inventors (“NAI”) this June in Tampa, Florida.

According to a recent College Station news release from a Texas A&M AgriLife notification, Tarleton State University Professor Dr. Bill McCutchen will be presented as an inductee into the National Academy of Inventors (“NAI”) this June in Tampa, Florida.  He will become an official “Fellow” of the NAI by early summer.

McCutchen has held the title of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center director at TSU in Stephenville since 2019.  He says, “I just moved to my new city two years ago, and I love it. I am happy to say that I work hand in hand with Dr. Kelm. He is my counterpart that facilitates extension activities at the center and across our region.”

McCutchen has achieved this distinguished NAI honor because of his extended work achievements in advancing educational science in the area of agriculture. He joined Texas A&M University and the AgriLife Research Agency in 2006.

Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research shares, “As an inventor, Dr. McCutchen has over 70 U.S. patents to his credit. As a leader, he has been a valuable force in the university’s and agency’s efforts in identifying potential novel discoveries and protecting intellectual property.”

McCutchen credits this recent achievement to the Texas A&M University System for providing the opportunity to work with very talented leadership, scientists and project managers to establish and grow the Office of Corporate Relations and to enable Texas A&M AgriLife to become a leading force in intellectual property within the system.     

When asked what his most important inventions are, McCutchen says, “To me, my top areas can be classified as herbicide, insect, and disease resistance, but these also included several combined patents in these same areas of expertise.”

Explanation of the importance of McCutchen’s work

To even be considered as a NAI Fellow, each nominee must undergo a rigorous vetting process once nominated. Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction bestowed solely to academic inventors. According to the organization, there are only 1,228 NAI Fellows worldwide.

Martan Scully, Ph.D., Texas A&M Burgess Distinguished Professor of Physics, Bryan-College Station, said in his nomination, “Dr. McCutchen’s patents and inventions are directed toward improving agriculture products from chemistry to biotechnology, while working as a team member in industry and now academia to help feed the world.”

“Specifically, Dr. McCutchen has invented methods for developing and screening for better chemical leads and biotechnological advances for insect, weed and pathogen control,” Scully said. “As a specific example, and through the use of engineered recombinant baculoviruses, he was able to optimize insect‐selective neurotoxins to locate novel targets and receptors to identify novel insecticide leads.”

He said McCutchen’s research and innovations also span various genetic transformation techniques to better improve plant yields by selecting genetic traits in crops with increased robustness to biotic and abiotic stressors.

Scully and McCutchen have worked together over the past decade on aspects of the development of photo-quantum biology on ways to detect plant and animal stress and disease using modern optics.

The NAI Fellows selection committee stated that inductees are chosen for demonstrating “a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.”

Scully said research like McCutchen's is key in a world where, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 815 million people now go hungry, or 11% of the world’s population. This is an increase of 38 million, compared with last year.

Born and bred for specific kind of work

McCutchen was the only child of Bill and Shirley McCutchen. He was born in Eastland, Texas, and was raised in the city of Cameron, south of Waco. He credits his parents for his career ambition and success.

He states, “We were an AgriLife Extension family, and my father was an Extension agent for about 30 years. You might say I was replicate of the old saying: ‘Life father, like son’.  Growing up, my parents made sure I appreciated the value of hard work and the importance of education.”

In 2006, McCutchen left the industry giant DuPont to accept a position with AgriLife Research in Bryan-College Station as a deputy associate director. McCutchen had been hired in previous years as a research biologist at DuPont Agriculture & Nutrition in Wilmington, Delaware. He worked for DuPont for 13 years – achieving the ranks of technical lead, head of insect biotechnology and then head of research and discovery for insects, herbicide and pathogens at Pioneer Hybrid in Iowa.  

During his 15-plus years as part of the Texas A&M family, McCutchen has been the recipient of many highly esteemed awards and honors.  In 2011, however, he received the “Excellence in Innovation Award” in recognition of his innovative research and commercialization by the Texas A&M University System.

He established and grew the Office of Corporate Relations under Hussey, then AgriLife Research director, and helped to move AgriLife Research to the No. 1 status within the Texas A&M University System for patents, royalties and sponsored research with corporate and other partners.

He championed many sponsored projects and commercial innovations from AgriLife research scientists in the areas of crop breeding, water chemistry, bioenergy, remote sensing, nutrition, and human and animal health.

Leaving a legacy of agricultural impact

“Not only is Dr. McCutchen an active champion for recognizing and capturing the value of intellectual property for the Texas A&M University System, he has also consistently led the charge from AgriLife leadership to give intellectual property a priority position within AgriLife,” said Janie Hurley, AgriLife Research Intellectual Property and Commercialization program director at Bryan-College Station.

Hurley also stated McCutchen understands the need to educate and encourage others to identify and harness the value of invention.

“Dr. McCutchen also recognizes the importance of protecting opportunities for the creation of intellectual property by implementing due diligence steps at the earliest stages,” she said. “As part of this, he was critical in forming new teams that brought together expertise in sponsored research proposals, contracts, intellectual property and commercialization whereby proper due diligence was conducted so that projects had the greatest chance of success.”

McCutchen relays, “Becoming a ‘Fellow of NAI’ is a great honor and recognition, highlighting the importance of innovation and commercialization of some of my research endeavors.”

A special “thank you” to Susan Himes of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for allowing the Stephenville Empire-Tribune to use portions of her story and quotes as published in the “Morning AgClips."