U.S. Scientist Esther Sans Takeuchi Receives European Inventor Award 2018 in the Non-EPO Countries Category

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Sans Takeuchi honored for developing a battery that increases the lifespan of implantable defibrillators fivefold, greatly reducing need for reoccurring surgery

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Esther Sans Takeuchi's innovative work on energy storage and power sources is enabling lifesaving technologies that benefit millions of people.

The European Patent Office (EPO) announced today that U.S. Scientist Esther Sans Takeuchi has won the 2018 European Inventor Award in the "Non-EPO countries" category, one of the five award categories. The award was presented to her by the European Patent Office (EPO) at a ceremony held today in Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye attended by some 600 guests from the areas of politics, business, intellectual property and science. Of the four U.S. scientists nominated for the award, Sans Takeuchi, a professor at Stony Brook University, is the only American to bring home Europe’s most prestigious prize of innovation this year.

With the award, Sans Takeuchi was honored for developing the compact batteries that power tiny, implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) – devices that detect and correct irregular, potentially fatal, heart rhythms. Her lithium silver vanadium oxide ("Li/SVO") battery extended the power-source lifetime for ICDs to around five years, considerably longer than its predecessors, thus reducing the number of surgeries patients needed to undergo to replace them. Her invention led not only to an advance in battery chemistry, but also enabled the production and widespread adoption of ICDs and significantly improved patient well-being.

"Esther Sans Takeuchi's innovative work on energy storage and power sources is enabling lifesaving technologies that benefit millions of people," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "Her developments in the field of battery technology have also made her one of the most prolific U.S. women inventors. She serves as an exceptional role model for women in science today, while demonstrating the immense advances in human well-being that patented technologies can bring about."

Esther Sans Takeuchi is one of four women inventors being honored with the 2018 European Inventor Award, the highest number ever since it was launched in 2006. The other category winners were French inventors Agnès Poulbot and Jacques Barraud† (Industry category), German biophysicist Jens Frahm (Research), Jane ní Dhulchaointigh and team (Ireland), and Swiss physicist Ursula Keller (Lifetime achievement). Erik Loopstra (Netherlands) and Vadim Banine (Netherlands/Russia) were chosen by the public in an online poll to receive this year's Popular Prize.

The European Inventor Award is presented annually by the EPO to distinguish outstanding inventors from Europe and around the world who have made an exceptional contribution to social development, technological progress and economic growth. The winners were chosen by an independent international jury from a nomination list of more than 500 individuals and teams of inventors put forward for this year's award.

When the first ICD was implanted in 1980, the relatively bulky device – placed in the patient's abdominal region due to its size – required battery replacement every 12 to 18 months. The resulting frequent surgeries presented an additional risk for patients who were already suffering from heart problems. As a materials scientist and chemical engineer, Esther Sans Takeuchi focused her expertise on developing a better solution:

"We took on the almost impossible challenge of developing a battery that would last five years, and have one million times higher power than the pacemaker battery," said Sans Takeuchi. “We achieved this through several innovations: a new cathode material, a highly conductive electrolyte, and a novel cell design that enabled high power.”

As a result of her work, ICD batteries now offer significantly greater longevity and are small enough to be fitted underneath a patient's collarbone in the same location that pacemakers are placed. Sans Takeuchi's Li/SVO batteries are now the most commonly used batteries in implantable cardiac defibrillators. With about 300,000 of these devices implanted each year worldwide, they are quite literally life-savers – using a high-voltage shock to reset the heart and prevent sudden death in high-risk patients who are susceptible to cardiac arrest.

The battery technology was first employed in an implanted ICD in 1987 and commercialized by U.S. medical device manufacturer Greatbatch, where Sans Takeuchi headed research and development for batteries. Speaking about the development of the technology, the inventor added, “We were very clever in how we approached patents; we realized that patents could be a strategic advantage for the company.”

The daughter of Latvian emigrants, Esther Sans Takeuchi credits her parents for instilling in her a strong work ethic from a young age and for awakening her interest in science. Today, she is recognized as one of the world's leading energy storage researchers and also one of the most successful U.S. woman inventors, with over 150 U.S. patents and 39 European patents to her name. Since 2012, she is the SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering department at Stony Brook University, as well as Chief Scientist of the Energy Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. After 40 years in industry and academia, she continues to work at the forefront of battery technology innovation.


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