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MIT Student Receives $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Invention and Innovation

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (February 11, 1999) — The 1999 recipient of the annual $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventiveness, MD/PhD student Daniel DiLorenzo of Fort Washington, Maryland, was announced today at a press briefing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

DiLorenzo won the award, open only to MIT graduating seniors and graduate students, for his commitment to the research and development of innovations in the health sciences arena, and for a track record of creating novel devices and technologies in his field. The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is awarded to an MIT student who demonstrates remarkable inventiveness and who serves as a role model for aspiring young inventors.

DiLorenzo is finishing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at MIT, working in the area of neuroscience and implantable devices. He is also completing his MD in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, an MD program jointly administered by MIT and Harvard. A student at MIT since 1984, DiLorenzo earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering. His background also includes work in robotics, medical devices, entrepreneurship and the management of technology.

DiLorenzo was interested in designing and building devices from a young age, and traces his first projects back to grade school using Erector® sets and building models. By fifth grade, he built his first circuit, and by eighth grade designed and built a life-like mobile robot, its limbs measured to his own arms and fingers. As DiLorenzo continued to build more advanced robots, including a four-legged walking robot, his interests in health sciences and electrical engineering converged.

A holder of two patents with two more pending, DiLorenzo's patented inventions include a method to control intraoperative brain swelling and several medical electronic devices. He has worked on a variety of projects integrating engineering and medicine, including a "functional electrical stimulation" (FES) to control the gait of paralyzed patients. This device has allowed a paraplegic patient to walk 60 feet with balance assistance.

DiLorenzo has also worked on the development of implanted microelectrodes to allow artificial limbs to communicate with the nerves in the arms of amputees. His current work in motor learning involves understanding how the brain controls movement of the arm. He envisions combining these backgrounds in the development of devices to restore function to patients with neurological damage or disease, including patients with spinal cord injury. DiLorenzo says, "Combining the personally rewarding disciplines of neurosurgery and research with the highly creative pursuits of device development and medical venture creation is incredibly interesting and challenging, while it also offers an opportunity to improve the quality of life for countless suffering patients."

In addition to patenting his numerous inventions, DiLorenzo's ultimate career goal is to combine functional neurosurgery with the development of innovative implantable devices. He also looks ahead to developing the technologies and founding ventures to make implantable prosthetic devices clinically available to the public.

DiLorenzo credits the Lemelson-MIT Program for its visible commitment to championing the role of innovation and its potential benefits to society. "I am privileged to be recognized by the judges of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for work which I enjoy and that I hope will have a meaningful positive impact on society," DiLorenzo said. When asked for advice for fellow inventors, he said "It is important to be both creative and persistent, to always try to think of a better way to solve a problem. Above all, you have to be passionate about your work. Regardless of how good your idea is, that is just a starting point; then it's time to relentlessly hammer away until your idea actually works."

"Dan has a long track record of innovation," say DiLorenzo's recommenders Martha Gray, Ph.D. and Joseph Bonventre, M.D., Ph.D., co-directors of the Harvard-MIT division of the Health Sciences and Technology Program. "We have no doubt that he will continue to create innovative solutions to a wide variety of medical problems. Moreover, Dan knows how to carry an idea from conception, to proof-of-concept, to implementation. He seems to be ideally matched to the objectives of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize."

Previous student prize winners include 1998 winner Akhil Madhani, inventor of robotic surgical devices, winner Nathan Kane, who licensed his bellows designs to two companies; 1996 winner, David Levy, who founded his own company, TH, Inc. ("think"), to market and develop inventions such as the world's smallest keyboard, and the 1995 (and first) Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner Thomas Massie, who founded SensAble Devices to market his computer Haptic interface.

The Student Prize is part of the Lemelson-MIT Program. Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Read more about Daniel DiLorenzo.

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