Supporting the goal of educating confident yet compassionate graduates who demonstrate excellence and leadership, Ursinus College has initiated a lecture series to bring experienced, innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs to campus.
Celebrated green chemist and scholar Joseph DeSimone launched the series, Fostering Innovation & Entrepreneurship Through the Liberal Arts. DeSimone spoke Feb. 11 in Musser Auditorium in Pfahler Hall on the Ursinus campus. His lecture was titled, “Translating Basic Science into Products and the Role of Diversity in Making that Happen.”
The new series is based on the view that students who learn to take risks and develop curious minds will thrive in the competitive world today, and that a deeper understanding of what it means to be an innovator and entrepreneur needs role models to demonstrate how those qualities are put into practice.
Series speakers will meet with students, participate in classroom discussions, and share personal stories, making clear the process through which they formed an idea and creatively implemented that it while facing obstacles, having ideas fall flat, and contrasting risks and rewards.
Joseph DeSimone, who is a 1986 graduate of Ursinus College, is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University and of Chemistry at UNC. Additionally, in 2012 he was named director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC. He has published over 290 scientific articles and has 130 issued patents in his name with over 80 patents pending. DeSimone is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, an adjunct member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and Director of the Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology and the Institute for Nanomedicine at UNC.
DeSimone is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences (2012) and the National Academy of Engineering (2005). He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005). DeSimone has received over 50 major awards and recognitions including the 2012 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation by Sigma Xi; the 2010 AAAS Mentor Award in recognition of his efforts to advance diversity in the chemistry Ph.D. workforce; the 2009 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award; the 2009 North Carolina Award; the 2008 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Invention and Innovation; the 2007 Collaboration Success Award from the Council for Chemical Research; and the 2005 ACS Award for Creative Invention. In 2002 DeSimone was honored with the John Scott Award presented by the City Trusts, Philadelphia, given to “the most deserving” men and women whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the “comfort, welfare and happiness” of mankind. That same year he also was awarded the Engineering Excellence Award by DuPont; and the 2002 Wallace H. Carothers Award from the Delaware Section of the ACS.
DeSimone, an innovative polymer chemist, has made breakthrough contributions in green chemistry, fluoropolymer synthesis, colloid science, and nano-biomaterials. He pioneered supercritical CO2-based polymerization reactions and the self-assembly of molecules in compressible media. He has shown the benefit of novel fluoro-elastomers for soft lithographic applications, including the synthesis of shape-controlled nano-biomaterials.
An accomplished researcher and inventor, over his career his projects have ranged from developing a bio-absorbable cardiac stent to inventing an environmentally friendly process for the creation of high performance plastics. DeSimone’s work is currently focused in the area of nanomedicine.
At the Kenan Institute, part of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, DeSimone’s research focuses on applying lithographic fabrication technologies from the computer industry for the design and synthesis of new medicines and vaccines. In 2004, DeSimone and his students invented a new technology to create nanoparticles using a process they coined as PRINT ® (Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates).
With PRINT® he and his team are able to achieve mass production of uniform nanoparticles with precise control over size, shape, chemistry, flexibility and other properties. In addition to vaccines and inhaled therapeutics, applications for PRINT include the development of new approaches for the detection and treatment of cancer. They were the first to successfully adapt manufacturing techniques from the computer industry to make advances in medicine, including improved approaches to cancer treatment and diagnosis. Other projects include developing nanoparticle vaccines for infectious diseases, vaccines for cancer and particles that mimic red blood cells.
DeSimone co-founded Liquidia Technologies, a North Carolina-based nanotechnology company, to further develop the PRINT technology. Liquidia has its first product – a nanoparticle flu vaccine – in clinical trials. In June, Liquidia announced the initiation of a multiyear collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, potentially worth several hundred million dollars. The efforts of the two companies as a result of this agreement could lead to the development of multiple life-saving health-care products.