100 patents and counting10/21/2008
Dr. Joseph Kennedy, distinguished professor of polymer science and chemistry at The University of Akron, recently received his 100th U.S. patent.
World-renowned scientist, researcher and inventor Dr. Joseph Kennedy, distinguished professor of polymer science and chemistry at The University of Akron, recently received his 100th U.S. patent - no small accomplishment in the world of innovation. In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says an achievement of this magnitude is extremely rare. Kenneth Preston, UA's associate vice president of research and director of technology transfer, notes that many of the world's finest inventors have no more than 10 patents to their names.
Kennedy's work has indirectly saved millions of lives. His invention of the polystyrene-polyisobutylene-polystyrene block copolymer and thermoplastic elastomer is the basis of a biocompatible polymer coating on Boston Scientific's TAXUS® drug-eluting cardiovascular stent, which has been implanted in about 5 million patients worldwide. While the stent does its work to open clogged coronary arteries, Kennedy's polymer coating time-releases drugs and replaces the bare metal stent of bygone days with one more compatible with human tissue.
Kennedy's 100th patent is U.S. Patent 7,388,065, "Process for Preparing Siloxane Compounds," which involves an improved method for producing high-performance silicone rubbers. Such polymers could be used in range of applications, including industrial, household and medical products.
At work six days a week
Kennedy's genius blossoms in his UA laboratory where at age 80, he spends six days a week combining his expertise as a biochemist and polymer scientist to embark upon his next innovation. A true pioneer in polymer science, Kennedy's discoveries and work with butyl polymerization from previous decades remain viable today and serve as a springboard to advance his work and that of other researchers, including his dozens of protégés over the years.
"Dr. Kennedy's research has certainly made an impact on society, not only through the significant work of the many polymer scientists he has mentored, but also through the meaningful advancements in biomaterials science for which he is directly responsible," says Dr. Stephen Cheng, dean of UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering.
Some of the patents that Kennedy has earned over his decades at The University of Akron are framed in a collage that hangs outside of his office in the Goodyear Polymer Building.
Kennedy's research on isobutylene-based elastomers, for example, led to his patent-pending application of these elastomeric gels as spinal implants used to treat patients with herniated or slipped discs. Meanwhile, his most recent work involves research on smart amphiphilic polymer networks, which could serve as semi-permeable membranes for an artificial pancreas. This implantable device, aimed to cure Type I Diabetes, has undergone successful animal trials at the Cleveland Clinic.
An entrepreneurial mindset
"It is the rare inventor who has just one of his patents achieve commercial success. Dr. Kennedy, however, designs his research with an entrepreneurial mindset to solve real-world problems and meet important societal needs," says Dr. George R. Newkome, UA's vice president for research, dean of the Graduate School and professor of polymer science and chemistry. "His work is truly remarkable and will go a long way into the future, as a catalyst for discoveries still unknown, but on the cusp of development."
UA's polymer science and polymer engineering program is the nation's largest single center of polymer education, and is ranked ahead of such highly regarded universities as M.I.T. and Caltech. The college's faculty include winners of the highest national and international honors bestowed for achievement in the polymer field.