Dr Joseph M. DeSimone of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been awarded this year's Lemelson-MIT Prize for his pioneering inventions and his ability to turn ideas into products. The $500,000 prize will be awarded at MIT's second annual EurekaFest.
DeSimone, only 44 years old, has had many breakthrough achievements. He developed a process for making plastics in a more environmentally-friendly way by using supercritical CO2 instead of perfluorooctanoic acid to produce fluuropolymers, a plastic with a number of applications including non-stick cookware, data communications, semiconductors, and automotive products. The technology, which eliminates a chemcial that can linger in the bloodstream and the environment, has been licensed by DuPont.
DeSimone also teamed with Duke University cardiologist Richard Stack to create a new type of drug-coated heart stent—one that is made from a biodegradable plastic, instead of a metal tube permanently embedded in the body. Metal stents can have negative effects in the long-term, whereas DeSimone's bioabsorbable stents allow the body to heal more naturally. The technology is currently in clinical trials.
In addition, DeSimone and his team at the NSF's Science and Technology Center for Environmentally Responsible Solvents and Processes have developed a process to use technology currently used in creating microchips to fabricate nanocarriers for medicines. the Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates (PRINT) technology can be used to manufacture highly-customizable nanobiomaterials that can be controlled for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Simone has formed a private venture, Liquidia Technologies, to commercialize this technology.
Congratulations to Dr. Simone on all of his accomplishments, and good luck to him in his future endeavours!