AIChE Fellow Dr. Cato T. Laurencin Receives 2019 AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize

AIChE Fellow Dr. Cato T. Laurencin of the University of Connecticut has been named recipient of the 2019 Philip Hauge Abelson Prize, which is presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Outstanding engineering and medical achievements

Laurencin is a leading biomedical engineer and orthopedic surgeon, and serves as the founding director of the Institute of Regenerative Engineering and the Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical, and Engineering Sciences at the University Connecticut. He is also founder of AIChE’s Regenerative Engineering Society. His published work and patents are far-reaching and include the use of nanotechnology in musculoskeletal regeneration and various groundbreaking orthopedic therapies.

Of particular note, his research sparked the development of biocomposite interference screws, which are used to connect soft tissue and bone, and are used in at least 25% of the more than 500,000 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgeries performed worldwide each year. Similarly, his work in the area of soft tissue implants—namely, the STR graft for rotator cuff regeneration and the Laurencin-Cooper (LC) Ligament for ACL regeneration—has redefined treatment for rotator cuff grafts and certain knee surgeries. In fact, National Geographic named the LC Ligament one of its “100 Scientific Discoveries that Changed the World” in 2012. Laurencin's ideas were behind the 2015 launch of the HEAL Project (Hartford Engineering a Limb) at the University of Connecticut, which has the goal of regenerating a human knee within seven years, and an entire limb within 15 years.

Shaping national policy

Outside academia and the operating room, Laurencin has played a significant role in shaping national policy on science and technology. He has served on the Food and Drug Administration’s orthopedic device panel and was appointed to the National Science Advisory Board to help revamp the agency and its mission of providing scientifically based evidence to support the approval of devices, drugs and biologics. He has also served on numerous advisory boards for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and was the faculty leader in the development of the Bioscience Connecticut Initiative for the State of Connecticut. Bioscience Connecticut now serves as a model for government-academic innovation partnerships around the country.

Developing new STEM leaders

In addition to his many scientific accomplishments, Laurencin has actively worked to provide mentorship to younger minority STEM professionals. He also serves as editor-in-chief of Springer Nature’s Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and is an active member of AIChE’s Minority Affairs Committee (MAC).

Laurencin is the recipients of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from former President Obama. He is a peer-elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine, and a recipient of AIChE’s William W. Grimes Award for Excellence in Chemical Engineering. AIChE also named him one of its 100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era.

Laurencin will receive the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize during the 185th AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14, 2019.