Engineering Research Scientist Earns Prestigious Acta Biomaterialia Gold Medal

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Larry Hench, University Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Florida Institute of Technology College of Engineering, has been awarded the highly acclaimed international 2014 Acta Biomaterialia Gold Medal. The award recognizes excellence in research and development in the field of biomaterials.

“His outstanding research contributions, exceptional scholarship, dedicated service to the profession and society, and sustained excellence in educating the next generation of engineers, practitioners and scientists fully qualify him to be recognized with the Acta Biomaterialia Gold Medal,” wrote M. Singh, Chief Scientist, Ohio Aerospace Institute, in his letter of recommendation.

Hench, who is also director of the Florida Tech Center for Medical Materials and Photonics, specializes in bio-ceramics and holds a prestigious membership in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The NAE recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to the engineering field and to the advancement of new technological fields.

He is currently overseeing a new, online, Certificate in Biomedical Engineering program at Florida Tech, which is expected to be in beta test this fall. The certificate will be of value to a wide range of allied health care personnel and biomedical engineers.

Born in Ohio in 1938, Hench received his bachelor’s degree in 1961 and doctoral degree in 1964 in ceramic engineering from The Ohio State University. After 32 years on the faculty, Hench retired from the University of Florida as Emeritus Professor to join Imperial College London, University of London, as chair of ceramic materials. There, he co-founded and co-directed the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre for 10 years.

In 1969 Hench discovered Bioglass, the first man-made material to bond to living tissues, which is now clinically used throughout the world to repair bones, joints and teeth. Prior to this discovery, all materials used in medicine or dentistry could be tolerated by the body only by forming a non-adherent fibrous layer to isolate living tissues from the foreign material.

Discoveries made by Hench and his colleagues in the 1980s and 1990s have resulted in numerous Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approvals. In the mid-‘80s the FDA approved the use of bioactive glass devices to reconstruct the ossicular chain (part of the middle ear) and restore hearing. A subsequent FDA approval led to bioactive glass implants to replace teeth, maintain jaw stability and repair maxillo-facial bone defects. In the ‘90s the FDA approved the use of a particulate form of bioactive glass that led to regenerating new bone to repair bone defects caused by periodontal disease. Numerous FDA approved applications in orthopedic surgery include repair of bone defects following revision surgery of failed hip and knee prostheses, and spinal repair.

Hench, who has dedicated more than 40 years to his work, has earned many international awards, published 800 research papers, 30 books and has 32 U.S. patents. Twelve companies have been founded based upon technology created in Hench’s laboratories and the commercial products have led to numerous advanced technology awards. He is also an author of a series of children’s books featuring Boing-Boing the Bionic Cat and educational materials such as workbooks, experiment books and hands-on kits to stimulate interest in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

Hench has chaired 13 national and international conferences and symposia. In addition to his NAE membership, he is a member of the World Academy of Ceramics and a fellow of numerous professional societies including the American Ceramic Society, Society of Glass Technology, and Institute of Materials. He is a Distinguished Life Member of the American Ceramic Society, the Society’s highest award, and has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering by the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology.

Hench will be presented with the award at the joint meetings of the European Society of Biomaterials and the United Kingdom Biomaterials Society in Liverpool, UK, Aug. 29 to Sept. 2, 2014, where he will give the award keynote lecture at a special symposium on bioactive materials.

The Gold Medal Award consists of the medal, a plaque, a cash honorarium and travel expenses to attend the award ceremony. Awardees are undisputed world leaders in the field of biomaterials, whose accomplishments in discovery and translation to practice are surpassing and known to all in the field.

Acta Materialia Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to disseminating the knowledge of science and engineering of materials, primarily by publishing high quality journals covering the areas of materials science, biomaterials, materials engineering, materials chemistry and physics. The corporation publishes three journals in collaboration with Elsevier: Acta Materialia, Scripta Materialia, and Acta Biomaterialia.

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