Dean Kamen is an inventor, an entrepreneur, and a tireless advocate for science and technology. His roles as inventor and advocate are intertwined—his own passion for technology and its practical uses has driven his personal determination to spread the word about technology’s virtues and by so doing to change the culture of the United States.
As an inventor, he holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, many of them for innovative medical devices that have expanded the frontiers of health care worldwide. While still a college undergraduate, he invented the first wearable infusion pump, which rapidly gained acceptance from such diverse medical specialties as oncology, neonatology, and endocrinology. In 1976, he founded his first medical device company, AutoSyringe, Inc., to manufacture and market the pumps. Then, working with leading diabetes researchers, Dean pioneered the design and adoption of the first portable insulin pump. It was quickly demonstrated that using a pump could much more effectively control patients’ blood glucose levels. At age 30, he sold AutoSyringe to Baxter Healthcare Corporation.
Following the sale of AutoSyringe, Inc., he founded DEKA Research & Development Corporation to develop internally generated inventions as well as to provide research and development for major corporate clients. Kamen led DEKA’s development of the HomeChoiceTM peritoneal dialysis system for Baxter International Inc. The HomeChoiceTM system allows patients to be dialyzed in the privacy and comfort of their home and quickly became the worldwide market leader. Kamen also led the development of technology to improve slide preparation for the CYTYC (now Hologic Inc.) ThinPrep® Pap Test. Kamen-led DEKA teams have also developed critical components of the UVARTM XTSTM System, an extracorporeal photophereisis device marketed by Therakos, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, for treatment of T-Cell lymphoma. An advanced prosthetic arm in development for DARPA should advance the quality of life for returning injured soldiers. Other notable developments include the HydroflexTM surgical irrigation pump for C.R. Bard, the CrownTMstent, an improvement to the original Palmaz-Schatz stent, for Johnson & Johnson, the iBOTTM mobility device, and the Segway® Human Transporter.
Kamen has received many awards for his efforts. Notably, Kamen was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000. Presented by President Clinton, this award was in recognition for inventions that have advanced medical care worldwide, and for innovative and imaginative leadership in awakening America to the excitement of science and technology. Kamen was also awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 2002, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in May 2005. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering, and has been a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1997.
In 2010, Dean hosted the Planet Green television series Dean of Invention. In addition to DEKA, one of Dean’s proudest accomplishments is founding FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology. Founded in 1989, this year FIRST® will serve more than 400,000 young people, ages 6 to 18, in more than 86 countries around the globe. Last year, high-school-aged participants were eligible to apply for more than $50 million in scholarships from over 200 leading colleges, universities, and corporations.
Recently, Dean established FIRST Global, a non-profit that organizes a yearly international robotics challenge dedicated to inspiring a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the globe. With the inaugural 2017 FIRST Global Challenge having included teams from more that 150 nations from every corner of the world, FIRST Global represents the culmination of nearly 30 years of work to bring Dean’s vision to the world stage.