Engineering profession's top organization elects Dr. Nicholas Peppas as member

AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Nicholas Peppas, professor of biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and pharmaceutics at The University of Texas at Austin, has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering, widely considered the highest honor earned in the engineering profession.

Dr. Nicholas Peppas
Dr. Nicholas Peppas
Photo: Caroling Lee

Peppas is recognized as the father of modern drug delivery and his induction to the academy acknowledges his pioneering work “on development of biomedical and drug-delivery applications of polymer (plastic) networks and hydrogels.”

Peppas is a world authority in pharmaceutical sciences and controlled drug delivery. He has been at The University of Texas at Austin since January 2003 and directs the Laboratory of Biomaterials, Drug Delivery, Bionanotechnology and Molecular Recognition.

He has authored 30 books or edited volumes and 900 publications. He is also the inventor of several drug delivery systems and devices described in 30 international patents. Some of these patents have been licensed to pharmaceutical and chemical companies.

He recently received a four-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to perfect his oral insulin medication that may eventually end the need to treat diabetes with daily injections. Peppas first published findings in 1999 on his development of a form of insulin that could be swallowed instead of injected. With the new grant, he will determine what factors make the current form of his oral-insulin-delivery device work well, and seek ways to further improve it.

Among other medical devices, he has developed, patented and/or commercialized:

  • contact lenses that do not need to be replaced but once a week;
  • intraocular lenses for cataract patients;
  • improved materials for cartilage replacement;
  • biogels for epidermal release of growth factors to improve wound healing;
  • new materials for artificial heart linings;
  • materials for vocal cord replacement or reconstruction; and
  • oral delivery systems of calcitonin for treatment of postmenopausal women suffering from osteoporosis.

Peppas holds the Fletcher Stuckey Pratt Chair in Engineering.

The National Academy of Engineering serves as an advisory board to federal government departments and agencies, to examine and report upon any engineering topic of interest to the government. It also conducts independent studies to analyze important topics in engineering and technology.

“This brings the total number of active academy members on our faculty to 29—a strong corps of engineering talent benefiting our students’ education, and Texans’ health, safety and economic development,” said Dr. Ben G. Streetman, dean of the university’s College of Engineering. “UT Austin boasts the second highest number of national academy members on its faculty among public universities, bested only by the University of California at Berkeley.”

Streetman is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering, elected to the lifetime post in 1987.

For more information contact: Becky Rische, College of Engineering, 512-471-7272.