In the category of Non-EPO countries, the European Patent Office (EPO) named U.S. Inventor Prof. Esther Sans Takeuchi a finalist for the 2018 European Inventor Award. Sans Takeuchi is being recognized for her work developing a battery that increases the lifespan of implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) fivefold, effectively reducing the need for multiple replacement surgeries. Her contributions not only advanced the field of chemistry through the compact lithium/silver vanadium oxide (Li/SVO) battery, but also increased the acceptance of ICDs beginning in the 1980s.
Sans Takeuchi’s battery was first used in 1987 and commercialized by Greatbatch, where Sans Takeuchi was the Director of Battery Research and Development, a company that today still manufactures ICD batteries based on the original invention. While Li/SVOs remain the battery of choice in ICDs, they have also been incorporated into other implantable devices for cardiac rhythm management, neurostimulation, and pumps.
After her original invention, Sans Takeuchi continued to evolve her work, adding carbon monofluoride to the SVO, resulting in a smaller battery that allowed for more compact ICDs. EPO President Benoit Battistelli commented on the announcement that, “Sans Takeuchi’s innovative work on energy storage and power sources is enabling life-saving technologies that benefit millions of heart-failure patients.”
Before finding a professional home at Greatbatch, Takeuchi completed her bachelors degree in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania (1975) followed by a PhD in organic chemistry at Ohio State University (1981) before taking postdoctoral research positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1982-1984) and the State University of New York at Buffalo (1983-1984). She returned to her last academic home at SUNY Buffalo as a professor in 2007, and since 2012 has been the SUNY Distinguished Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook and Chief Scientist of the Energy Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Sans Takeuchi is considered one of the most prolific U.S. women inventors with the most U.S. patents filed by any woman (150), along with 39 European patents. Her work has garnered a bevy of recognition prior to her announcement as finalist for the European Inventor Award, including receipt of the National Medal of Technology awarded by U.S. President Barack Obama for her invention of the Li/SVO battery.
Following up on the announcement, Medgadget had a unique opportunity to learn from Sans Takeuchi about her work and the latest honor.
In addition to the European Inventor Award, voting is now open to the public for the EPO’s 2018 Popular Prize. Check out all 15 finalists and vote for your favorite! This year’s EPO award winners will be announced in Paris on June 7, 2018. The ceremony will be broadcast live on Innovation TV as well as on the EPO’s Facebook page.
Michael Batista, Medgadget: Congratulations on your recognition as a European Inventor Award finalist! You’ve received a number of accolades related to your impressive work. What does this recognition mean to you?
Prof. Esther Sans Takeuchi: It is a great honor to be selected. This type of recognition indicates the global impact of the invention.
Medgadget: What led to your interest in developing cutting edge battery technology? Was application to medical devices always the goal of your invention?
Sans Takeuchi: My background in chemistry and electrochemistry led me to look into batteries. The medical battery arena was and is very exciting. Since I worked in a company dedicated to the betterment of patients, the medical application was a deliberate target from the beginning.
Medgadget: Have you engaged with individuals whoze quality of life has been improved as a result of your inventions?
Sans Takeuchi: I have met numerous people with medical devices including ICDs. Each time I am pleased to know that the device powered by the battery helped them.
Medgadget: What are some technologies, batteries or otherwise, that you think have the biggest potential for impacting medical technology in the near future?
Sans Takeuchi: There are many things on the horizon. While I do not want to select only a few, miniaturization enables new technologies and eases human implant.
Medgadget: Can you tell us about any exciting work you are involved with today in your role at either Stony Brook or Brookhaven National Laboratory?
Sans Takeuchi: We are at the forefront of battery science. We are seeking fundamental understanding as well as more applied research. Applications range from medical to vehicles to large scale energy storage to renewable forms of energy generation.