Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, May 16, 2001
Innovators Cohen, Fogarty to enter National Inventors Hall of Fame

Two members of the medical school's faculty will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in September. Genetics professor Stanley Cohen, MD, and surgery professor Thomas Fogarty, MD, will join eight other inventors as this year's new inductees, the organization's president, David Fink, announced at a press conference on campus on Friday.

Cohen, who holds Stanford's Kwoh-Ting Li professorship, was honored for developing genetic engineering, formally known as recombinant DNA technology, which allows molecular biologists to add genes from any organism into simple cells. Herbert Boyer, PhD, co-founder of Genentech Inc., was Cohen's partner in the invention and will be inducted into the group of honorees as well.

Genetic engineering has many applications in medicine and agriculture. For example, most insulin taken by diabetics is genetically engineered. And human growth hormone and other human gene products with medical uses are available only because they can be made through recombinant DNA technology. Genetic engineering is also invaluable to researchers attempting to understand the workings of living cells.

Fogarty was honored for inventing a type of catheter that revolutionized the way surgeons remove clots from blood vessels without major surgery. The device, called the Fogarty® Balloon Embolectomy Catheter, is a thin balloon that surgeons insert into an artery and guide to the blockage. Then they inflate the balloon and withdraw it along with the clot.

Fogarty's catheter transformed a complicated, invasive operation involving many incisions and a hospital stay into one that can be done with a single, small incision using a local anesthetic. Today more than 650,000 such procedures are done annually. Fogarty's invention marked the first therapeutic use of a catheter for vascular disease.

Katharine Ku, director of Stanford's technology licensing office, opened the proceedings, which included a brief statement from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). Lofgren lamented a proposed decrease in the federal science budget, emphasizing the importance of scientific innovation for solving the nation's problems. "We have many challenges facing us. And those challenges will be faced through innovation and technology," said Lofgren.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame, based in Akron, Ohio, sponsors educational programs and runs a museum highlighting the inventions of its inductees. Founded in 1973 to recognize the role of inventors and inventions in people's daily lives, the organization has inducted 158 inventors to its hall of fame. This year's class of 10 will join this group after a formal ceremony in September.