Consistently ranked as one of the top biomedical engineering programs in the nation, Duke’s biomedical engineering department—and its faculty—has added another award to a growing list of accolades.
This year, Kam Leong, James B. Duke professor of biomedical engineering, will receive the Clemson Award for Applied Research, given by the Society of Biomaterials. This is the third consecutive year in which a faculty member from the Pratt School of Engineering has won the award. In 2011, Ashutosh Chilkoti, Theo Pilkington professor of biomedical engineering and director of graduate studies, won the Clemson Award for Contributions to the Literature, and in 2010, William Reichert, professor and associate dean for diversity and Ph.D. education, won the Clemson Award for Basic Research in Biomaterials.
“This is a three-peat for Pratt, which I think is quite remarkable,” Dean of Pratt Tom Katsouleas said. “This is a reflection that the BME department in Pratt is one of the finest in the nation, and in particular, this award given in the area of biomaterials really indicates that we have unmatched strength in biomaterials—one of, if not the best, biomaterials programs in the country.”
Leong is being recognized for his work on developing novel materials for controlled drug delivery, said Craig Henriquez, chair of the BME department and co-director of the Center for Neuroengineering. One of Leong’s inventions is Gliadel: a biodegradable wafer for the delivery of anti-cancer drugs for brain cancer therapy that is used in the treatment of thousands of patients worldwide.
“This is the culmination of a lot of effort from my lab members, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and collaborators,” Leong said. “It is a team effort—I was just lucky to have a number of good students to work with to be able do this research.”
Leong’s recognition is the latest development for a department that is emerging as a leader in BME research, said George Truskey, senior associate dean for research and R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson professor of biomedical engineering.
“All of the faculty members [who won the award] are in biomedical engineering, and it’s highly unusual for faculty of one school to win this on a regular basis, year after year,” Truskey said. “It’s quite an achievement and a testament to the quality of their work.”
In order to receive the award, a member of the Society of Biomaterials must nominate an individual through a letter of recommendation. Sun Wong Kim, Ph.D., University of Utah, nominated Leong. An additional three letters of recommendation and the curriculum vitae of the candidate are also submitted, according to the society’s website.
“Research in biomaterials has grown, and now we’re at the point where we are receiving a high level of recognition,” Reichert said. “[This] is a demonstration of the growth and the depth that the department has achieved.”
Leong’s research has been published more than 240 times, according a Society of Biomaterials press release from December.
“He’s been a pioneer in this area,” Reichert said. “He’s had a long track record in degradable biomaterials for broad applications involved in tissue engineering and drug delivery.”
According to the release, recipients are selected by the Society for Biomaterials Awards, Ceremonies and Nominations Committee and then confirmed by the president of Clemson University. Leong will also receive $1,000 award from Clemson University and additional travel stipends for attending the Society for Biomaterials Fall Symposium in New Orleans this October.