UT professor recognized for work in nanotechnology, medicine

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Nicholas Peppas, chemical and biomedical engineering professor, was recently recognized for his work in the fields of nanotechnology and medicine.

In February, the John Hopkins Center for Nanomedicine awarded Peppas with the inaugural Pioneer of Nanomedicine Award, which included a $25,000 prize. The field of nanomedicine involves designing very small materials for medical applications.

During the award ceremony, Peppas gave a talk about his work titled “The Promise of Biotechnology: Solving Scientific Puzzles in Biomaterials and Drug Delivery.” Part of Peppas’ work is in the field of controlled drug release, or the design of biomaterials to slowly release drugs into the body over time.

Peppas, born in Greece, studied chemical engineering at the National Technical University of Athens. He later received his doctorate in 1973 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Today, he leads UT’s Institute of Biomaterials, Drug Delivery, and Regenerative Medicine.

Peppas said one early source of inspiration was the news of the first successful heart transplant performed in 1967. Mesmerized, he said he spent hours at libraries in Athens figuring out how the surgery was performed.

“I wanted my original contributions to help patients,” Peppas said.

Peppas is also an advocate of convergence, or integrating different fields. He specifically focuses on convergence in the health sciences, and the mixing of natural sciences and engineering to create new designs.

In 2016 Peppas helped write a report titled Convergence — The Future of Health. This report presented multiple examples of convergence in the health sciences, including urine tests that use nanoparticles to detect cancer and blood tests that capture DNA from tumors.

Peppas said that UT students also focused on solving multidisciplinary problems of the future should converse with professors and start working in labs as early as possible.

“Work with your undergraduate advisors after consultation with the leaders of the field (and) take additional courses that (teach) all aspects of a problem,” Peppas said.

Peppas’ work in the fields of drug delivery and bionanotechnology has created more than twenty medical products, such as the first treatment for hemophilia delivered in capsule form.

“My research has impacted millions of patients who have used or are using our products,” Peppas said.