$500k Lemelson-MIT Prize Awarded To Health Sensor Inventor

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The Lemelson Foundation created the Lemselson-MIT prize in 1994 to provide recognition and financial support to mid-career inventors that have managed to translate novel ideas into world-changing new technologies. The $500,000 prize makes it the single largest award for US inventors. The award is financially backed by the Lemelson Foundation but it is organized and executed by MIT. MIT is responsible for soliciting and evaluating nominees, and then two pools of finalists are chosen by two independent screening committees composed of MIT faculty. A national group of technology experts then selects the winner from the two pools of finalists.

This year, Sangeeta Bhatia, a biomedical engineer with a Ph.D from MIT and an MD from Harvard University, has taken the top prize. Bhatia is an MIT professor, and has built her career around miniaturizing technologies with the goal of creating more powerful health sensors. Bhatia and her team at MIT have designed novel cancer detection tests by developing an enzyme that when injected into a tumor, sheds key biomarkers that can be picked up on a urine paper strip test.

Bhatia also led a team that developed a human micro-liver that models the behavior of the human liver. The micro-livers are being commercialized as a tool to help pharmaceutical companies more accurately predict drug toxicity prior to human trials. The micro-liver is also being used as a design prototype for a new full-size and fully functioning human liver that might one day eliminate the need for liver donors.

“Dr. Bhatia is a wonderful example of a woman who has used her brilliance, skill and creativity to radically improve the detection and treatment of serious global health issues. We are proud to recognize her as this year’s Lemelson-MIT Prize winner.” – Dorothy Lemelson, Lemelson Foundation chair.

While her talent in the lab speak for themselves, Bhatia is also a gifted businesswoman. She sets an aggressive trajectory when monetizing her inventions, and has personally overseen the launch of ten companies and more than 70 products. When not inventing new technologies or overseeing her businesses, Bhatia advises the MIT Society of Women Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society Diversity Committee, a group she founded.


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