Leonard Pinchuk
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Alumnus Leonard Pinchuk Awarded Prestigious National Academy of Engineering 2019 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize for Innovations in Bioengineering

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has awarded the 2019 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize to Dr. Leonard Pinchuk, MSBE ’79, PhD ’84, along with colleagues Dr. Julio Palmaz, Dr. John Simpson, Dr. Richard Schatz and Dr. Paul Yock.  The Prize was conferred for innovations leading to widespread adoption of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also referred to as percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA).

PCI is a minimally invasive procedure which uses a catheter to place a stent device that opens narrowed or clogged blood vessels in the heart. PCI improves blood flow, thus decreasing heart-related chest pain and restoring patient health and normal activity. Tens of millions of patients worldwide have benefitted from the PCI procedure which often replaces or significantly delays the need for open heart coronary bypass surgery.

The Russ Prize, bioengineering’s highest honor in the United States, will be presented at a National Academy of Engineering gala ceremony in Washington, D.C. on February 20, 2019. The $500,000 biennial prize, which recognizes a bioengineering achievement that significantly improves the human condition, cites PCI for “seminal contributions to coronary angioplasty, enabling minimally invasive treatment of advanced coronary artery disease.”

“The Russ Prize recipients personify engineering creations that advance health and healthcare every day,” said NAE President C. D. Mote, Jr. “The PCI makes a remarkable contribution to patient well-being, helping millions afflicted with advanced coronary artery disease and significant angina.” Pinchuk commented, “I am extremely honored to be recognized for my inventions in bioengineering and wish to express my deep gratitude for the invaluable contributions of our community’s very talented engineers and scientists who have worked with me over the past thirty years.”

Pinchuk, a distinguished research professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Miami, is an inventor and entrepreneur in biomedical engineering, with 128 U.S. patents and 90 publications. He has cofounded 10 companies, where his major accomplishments include the invention of the Nylon 12 angioplasty balloon (the world’s most used angioplasty balloon catheter), helical wire stent, modular stent-graft, a drug-eluting stent (TAXUS®, Boston Scientific Corporation), a novel glaucoma shunt (InnFocus MicroShunt®)), the next generation intraocular lens, and Bionate® (DSM) and SIBS, the two most widely used implantable thermoplastic biomaterials. Pinchuk’s devices and biomaterials are used in hundreds of millions of patients worldwide.

The four other recipients of this prestigious award also have made significant contributions to the field of bioengineering.

Palmaz, an Ashbel Smith Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and scientific adviser to Vactronix Scientific, is an inventor of the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved balloon-expandable vascular stent. The Palmaz stent is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Schatz, recognized as an international expert in interventional cardiology, is research director of cardiovascular interventions at the Scripps Heart, Lung and Vascular Center, and director of gene and stem cell therapy. His seminal work in coronary stents revolutionized the treatment of coronary artery disease. Drs. Palmaz and Schatz created a modified coronary stent — two Palmaz stents joined by a single connector — approved by the FDA as the first stent indicated for the treatment of failure of coronary balloon angioplasty. The Palmaz-Schatz stent became the gold standard for every subsequent stent submitted for FDA approval.

Simpson has focused his efforts on the treatment of vascular disease and helped revolutionize the field of cardiology by creating a new guidewire-catheter system for coronary angioplasty with an independently steerable guidewire in the central lumen of the balloon catheter.

Yock is the Martha Meier Weiland Professor of Medicine and founding co-chair of Stanford’s Department of Bioengineering, with multiple courtesy appointments. He also is founder and director of the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign. Yock is internationally known for his work in inventing, developing and testing new devices, including the Rapid Exchange stenting and balloon angioplasty system, which is now the primary system in use worldwide. He also invented the fundamental approach to intravascular ultrasound imaging.

The Russ Prize was established in 1999 with a multimillion dollar gift to Ohio University by alumnus and esteemed engineer Fritz Russ and his wife, Dolores. The prize recognizes bioengineering achievements worldwide that are in widespread use and have improved the human condition.

The mission of the NAE is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology. The NAE is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an independent, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide objective analysis and advice to the nation on matters of science, technology, and health.

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