Release Date: July 30, 2007
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The renowned inventor of the tiny batteries that have helped make implantable cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators and other medical devices a life-saving reality for millions of patients has accepted a faculty position in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Esther S. Takeuchi, Ph.D., is leaving her post as chief scientist at Greatbatch, Inc., after 22 years and will begin her new position as a professor in the UB departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Electrical Engineering on Sept. 1.
Takeuchi often is cited as the woman awarded the most patents in the U.S. -- 134 at last count, most of them related to her pioneering development of sophisticated power sources for implantable devices, now a booming multibillion-dollar business.
Named to the National Academy of Engineering in 2004, she is one of just 100 women elected to the organization, considered the highest distinction that an engineering professional can achieve. Only four percent of the academy's 2,300 active members are women.
"As one of our nation's most distinguished engineering scientists, Dr. Takeuchi has been a powerful force in demonstrating how research can transform people's lives." noted Satish K. Tripathi, Ph.D., UB provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
"As a member of our UB faculty, she will have the opportunity to share her expertise and excitement for the field of engineering as she helps to prepare our next generation of scientists and inventors. I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Takeuchi to our University at Buffalo family."
Takeuchi's hiring is part of a comprehensive effort to enhance the national visibility of UB Engineering. The effort includes major expansions in UB Engineering research programs, faculty recruitment, physical facilities and student enrollment, all part of the university's strategic plan, UB 2020, focused on achieving enduring academic excellence and transforming UB into a model 21st-century public university.
During the next five to 10 years, UB Engineering plans to double research expenditures to $80 million and to increase enrollment by 30 percent to 4,000. The school also is raising funds to construct a new, state-of-the-art 130,000-square-foot facility on the Amherst Campus, according to Harvey G. Stenger, Ph.D., dean of UB Engineering.
"Dr. Takeuchi's recruitment will help UB Engineering build stronger bridges to industry and, in particular, to Greatbatch, Inc., a global leader in the biomedical device field," Stenger said. "Her expertise adds a critical component to UB's bioengineering portfolio, strongly complementing UB Engineering faculty teams that develop devices and also benefiting scientists in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who study disease and develop diagnostic tools and treatments."
According to Stenger, Takeuchi's joint appointment in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Department of Electrical Engineering demonstrates UB's commitment to leveraging cross-disciplinary strengths in biomedical engineering.
Takeuchi said she is eager to expand her research with other scientists at UB into areas including batteries for other medical devices, understanding the physiological benefits of electrical stimulation and even some homeland security applications, which require ever-smaller sources of power.
"This is a match made in heaven," she said. "I will be working with chemical engineers and bioengineers in the medical realm and with electrical engineers who provide the electronics for the devices."
Takeuchi's research at UB will be partly funded by UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
"As a faculty member affiliated with the UB Center of Excellence, Dr. Takeuchi brings not only her superb skills as a researcher, but also a unique perspective from her experience working at the center of the booming biomedical device industry," said Bruce A. Holm, Ph.D., senior vice provost and executive director of the UB Center of Excellence. "She is precisely the type of faculty member that the UB Center of Excellence was organized to attract."
Stenger noted that Takeuchi's recruitment is particularly important as the university grows to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
"Not only is UB Engineering gaining an outstanding faculty member with Dr. Takeuchi's appointment, but we are also getting the most successful female inventor in the country," he said.
At Greatbatch, Inc., her development of the lithium/silver vanadium oxide battery was a major factor in bringing implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) into production in the late 1980s. ICDs are used to shock the heart into a normal rhythm when it goes into fibrillation.
Twenty years later, with over 200,000 of these units being implanted each year, more than 90 percent of them are powered by the batteries that Takeuchi and her team developed and improved over the past two decades.
The lithium power sources developed by Takeuchi and her colleagues at Greatbatch have been utilized in pacemakers that also function as home health monitors and neurostimulators for diseases like epilepsy, Parkinson's and chronic pain. The batteries are being tested in emerging products for disorders of the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal system and others.
Thomas J. Hook, Greatbatch, Inc. president and chief executive officer commented: "Although we are sad to see Dr. Takeuchi leave Greatbatch after a successful 22 years of dedicated service with the company, at the same time, we are excited for her new beginning. Her prominent position in the departments of chemical and biological engineering and electrical engineering at the University at Buffalo will allow her to extend the wealth of her expertise to the university, its students and the community. We are looking forward to working closely with Esther and the thought leaders at UB in support of important research studies in the fields of chemical, biological and electrical engineering."
Takeuchi's success in the corporate world makes her an enthusiastic proponent of work in the private sector, which she notes, is where most engineering graduates will find employment.
At the same time, she says, she has had a growing awareness of issues that challenge engineering education in the U.S.
"Maybe by being a participant in the educational realm, I can send a message to a broader group of people that it's not only okay to work in this type of field, but that it's very exciting."
Takeuchi, who is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, is a recipient of the Battery Division of the Electrochemical Society Technology Award for development of lithium/silver vanadium oxide batteries and the Jacob F. Schoellkopf Award by the Western New York American Chemical Society for creative research in batteries for medical applications.
She has received the Inventor of the Year Award, Physical Sciences, of the Technical Societies Council of the Niagara Frontier and the Niagara Frontier Intellectual Property Law Association; a Pioneers of Science Award from Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute; a citation from UB's Community Advisory Board for outstanding achievement in science; a Woman of Distinction citation from the American Association of University Women and the Achievement in Healthcare Award from D'Youville College. She also was inducted into the Western New York Women's Hall of Fame.
A member of the board of directors of the Buffalo Museum of Science and its executive committee and of the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, Takeuchi also is active in the YWCA and the Western New York Pioneers of Science Program.
She earned her doctorate in chemistry at the Ohio State University and completed post-doctoral work in electrochemistry at the University of North Carolina and UB. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in chemistry and history.
Takeuchi lives in East Amherst.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 27,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.