Professor DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State University and of Chemistry at UNC. He is also an adjunct member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. DeSimone has published over 350 scientific articles and has roughly 200 issued patents in his name with over 200 patents pending.
DeSimone is one of only a few individuals who has been elected to all three branches of the U. S. National Academies: the National Academy of Medicine (2014), the National Academy of Sciences (2012), and the National Academy of Engineering (2005). He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005).
In May 2016 DeSimone was recognized by President Barack Obama with the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor in the U.S. for achievement and leadership in advancing technological progress. DeSimone has received over 50 other major awards and recognitions including the 2015 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine; the 2015 Dickson Prize from Carnegie Mellon University; the 2014 Industrial Research Institute Medal; the 2014 Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success from the ACS; 2013 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors; the 2012 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation presented by Sigma Xi; the 2010 AAAS Mentor Award in recognition of his efforts to advance diversity in the chemistry PhD workforce; the 2009 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award; the 2009 North Carolina Award, the highest honor the State of North Carolina can bestow to recognize notable achievements of North Carolinians in the fields of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts and Public Service; the 2008 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Invention and Innovation; the 2008 Tar Heel of the Year by the Raleigh News & Observer; the 2007 Collaboration Success Award from the Council for Chemical Research; the 2005 ACS Award for Creative Invention; the 2002 John Scott Award presented by the City Trusts, Philadelphia, given to “the most deserving” men and women whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the “comfort, welfare and happiness” of mankind; the 2002 Engineering Excellence Award by DuPont; the 2002 Wallace H. Carothers Award from the Delaware Section of the ACS; and the 2000 Oliver Max Gardner Award from the University of North Carolina, given to that person, who in the opinion of the Board of Governors’ Committee, “. . . during the current scholastic year, has made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race”.
DeSimone’s notable inventions include an environmentally friendly manufacturing process that relies on supercritical carbon dioxide instead of water and bio-persistent surfactants (detergents) for the creation of fluoropolymers or high-performance plastics, such as Teflon®. In 2002 DeSimone, along with Dr. Richard Stack (Duke University) and Dr. Robert Langer (MIT), co-founded Bioabsorbable Vascular Solutions (BVS) to commercialize a fully bioabsorbable, drug-eluting stent. Among other inventions, DeSimone has also developed novel, nonflammable electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries that are being commercialized.
DeSimone’s research group is heavily focused on harnessing the fabrication technologies from the semiconductor industry to design high-performance, cost-effective vaccines and medicines. DeSimone and his team developed a roll-to-roll particle fabrication technology called PRINT (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) in 2004. The group is now exploiting the advantages of PRINT to generate “calibration quality” nano-tools to define the geometric (size, shape), surface (zeta potential, stealthing ligands), and deformability limitations associated with the delivery of drugs and vaccines using different dosage forms. DeSimone’s laboratory and the PRINT technology became a foundation for the Carolina Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence funded by the National Cancer Institute.
In 2004 DeSimone launched Liquidia Technologies, which employs roughly 50 people in RTP and has raised over $60 million in venture financing, including the first ever equity investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a for-profit biotech company. Liquidia has converted PRINT into a GMP compliant process and is building on promising clinical trial results for its products.
Currently, DeSimone is on sabbatical leave from the university and has assumed the CEO role at Carbon, Inc. in Silicon Valley after co-founding the company based on a recent breakthrough in 3D printing called Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP). Students in the DeSimone research group are also focused on using CLIP to explore fundamental advances in applying 3D printing for the creation of new medical devices.
DeSimone received his BS in Chemistry in 1986 from Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA and his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1990 from Virginia Tech.