The National Academy of Engineering has selected Nicholas Peppas as its 2012 Founders Award recipient in recognition of his pioneering work in the areas of polymer chemistry, bioengineering, pharmaceutical sciences and advanced drug delivery.
Peppas is the chair of the Cockrell School of Engineering Biomedical Engineering Department, and he holds the Fletcher Stuckey Pratt Chair in Engineering with additional appointments in Chemical Engineering and Pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin. He is believed to be the first faculty member from a Texas university to receive the prestigious award since its inception in 1966. The award is given to one NAE member annually who has made a substantial impact on the engineering profession.
"Peppas is a leading researcher, inventor and pacesetter in the field of drug delivery and controlled release, a field that he developed into a mature area of scholarly and applied research," said Charles Vest, NAE president and former president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Peppas has focused his work on advancing drug delivery and biomaterials with the goal of improving drug administration, efficacy and patient quality of life. His contributions have been translated into more than 20 medical products, and he holds more than 50 U.S. and international patents.
"His pioneering work created a path for the emerging fields of biomaterials and responsive materials," said Cockrell School of Engineering Dean Gregory L. Fenves. "Peppas has made lasting contributions to engineering, as well as the pharmaceutical and clinical aspects of drug delivery. His scientific achievements have opened up new avenues for treating and curing diseases such as diabetes, cardiac problems and cancer."
In the 1980s, Peppas developed theories and equations that set the foundation for the design of drug delivery systems and biomaterials. He is known for the "Peppas-Korsmeyer Equation," which is the standard method of analysis of pharmaceutical formulations or systems.
One area of Peppas' focus is the delivery of responsive hydrogels - particles that are able to stay in a collapsed state until triggered by temperature, pH or other biomolecules in the body. His work with hydrogels has resulted in medical breakthroughs, including oral delivery systems for diabetes, controlled-release treatments for heart problems and the development of new biomaterials for artificial organs.
Peppas has supervised 180 graduates students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists. About 95 percent of his graduate students go on to work on their Ph.Ds. He also teaches undergraduate courses in biomedical engineering.