RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The following words should be posted in every university lab across the U.S.:
“You can do all the innovating you want in the laboratory, but if you can’t get it out of the university walls you do no one any good.”
So said Joseph DeSimone after the N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill professor was named winner the prestigious $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize on Wednesday.
Technology transfer is the proverbial Gordian Knot when it comes to commercializing discoveries made at universities. But DeSimone is proving to be for his fellow professors what Alexander the Great was to the great knot. DeSimone has figured out ways to slice through bureaucracy and red tape to launch such companies as Liquidia.
Liquidia is emerging as a leader in nanotechnology. The launching of that firm came after DeSimone helped form other ventures focused on use of carbon dioxide for a cleaner dry cleaning process and advances in polymers used by DuPont.
One of the reasons MIT chose DeSimone for the honor was his encouragement of entrepreneurship among his students. MIT noted that DeSimone has 115 patents and has applications pending for another 70. But MIT also pointed out that DeSimone has mentored a slew of PhDs and postdoctoral researchers.
“He instills an entrepreneurial spirit in his students that focuses on the importance of commercializing technology and scientific inventions,” MIT said in recognizing DeSimone.
From nanotech to CO2, stents to plastics, DeSimone sets a frantic pace for students as well as himself.
"The breadth of his inventions, and his ability to leverage his expertise across all these disciplines is really amazing," said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT program, in an interview with The Associated Press. (The award is named after Jerome H. Lemelson, a prolific inventor himself, and his wife, Dorothy, founded the nonprofit Lemelson-MIT Program in 1994.)
So what will DeSimone do with the money?
He plans to invest it in additional research.
Way to go, Joe.