Nicholas Peppas, professor of biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, pharmacy and surgery at The University of Texas at Austin and a world-renowned expert in biomaterials and drug delivery systems, has been awarded the Biomedical Engineering Society’s (BMES) prestigious Robert A. Pritzker Distinguished Lecture Award for 2016.

The lectureship is the highest award given by BMES and recognizes one individual each year for his or her outstanding achievements and leadership in the science and practice of biomedical engineering. Peppas is the first faculty member from UT Austin to receive the honor.

Presentation of the BMES award, a keynote lecture and a dinner honoring Peppas will take place at the society’s annual meeting in Minneapolis on Oct. 6.

“I am honored that our research contributions are recognized by the premier biomedical engineering organization in this way,” said Peppas, who holds the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering #6. “My students and I try to give good engineering solutions to a number of important medical problems — for the treatment of diabetes, multiple sclerosis and certain types of cancers.”

In recognition of the honor, Peppas was invited by the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering and the Illinois Institute of Technology to deliver a talk titled “Intelligent Nanoscale Biopolymers for Recognitive and Responsive Delivery of Drugs, Peptides and Proteins” earlier this year in Chicago.

"Nicholas is highly deserving of this marvelous honor,” said James Collins, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the 2014 recipient of the award. “He is a giant in the biomedical engineering community, having made multiple seminal research contributions as well as having trained and mentored a generation of outstanding engineering leaders. He is a national treasure.”

Peppas’ October keynote lecture will be published after the ceremony in the BMES Annals of Biomedical Engineering journal.

This is proving to be a big fall season for Peppas. In addition to the Pritzker Distinguished Lectureship, he has also been recognized by the American Institute for Chemical Engineers with a special symposium titled “In Honor of Nicholas Peppas II — 40 Years of Impact at the Frontiers of Science and Engineering.” The symposium, which will be held on Nov. 15 in San Francisco, will offer three scientific sessions and talks.

“Nicholas has made many visionary contributions to the field of biomedical engineering, leading to the development of new biomaterials and medical devices like artificial vocal cords, contact lenses, lining for artificial hearts, artificial cartilage, a wide range of drug delivery devices and the recently commercialized oral insulin delivery systems,” said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, professor at Rice University, director of the Rice 360-Degree Institute for Global Health and the 2010 recipient of the Pritzker Distinguished Lectureship. 

Peppas joined the UT Austin faculty in 2002 and served as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering from 2009 to 2015. Through his teaching, research and accolades, Peppas has brought global prestige to the Cockrell School. He has six honorary doctorates, 43 U.S. patents pending or issued, three companies founded and more than 1,350 papers published.

The recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, Peppas is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, French Academy of Pharmacy, Royal Academy of Spain, Academy of Athens, Royal Society of Chemistry (United Kingdom) and The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas.

“Among his most important achievements and contributions are the many talented undergraduate and graduate students he has introduced and mentored in the field of biomaterials and other aspects of biomedical engineering,” added Richards-Kortum. “These students have now become leaders in the field themselves and, together with Nicholas, are defining the future of the field.”

In addition to his faculty appointments in the Cockrell School and Dell Medical School, Peppas also leads UT Austin’s Institute for Biomaterials, Drug Delivery and Regenerative Medicine, which brings together leading university researchers who are investigating new ways to alter and improve the body's systems, repair failing organs and administer drugs and vaccines. The multidisciplinary institute addresses novel solutions in the treatment of diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases, diabetes and infectious and autoimmune diseases. The institute also fosters and enhances interactions with both the Austin and Texas biomaterials and drug delivery communities through services provided to startups, small companies and organizations.

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cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students
cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students