In recognition of his “innovative leadership in creating, developing, and commercializing revolutionary polymer-based therapeutics
In recognition of his “innovative leadership in creating, developing, and commercializing revolutionary polymer-based therapeutics and personal-care products through multiple successful start-up companies,” Craig Hawker, professor of materials, chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Barbara, has received the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) 2021 Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success.
“This is huge. I personally put a lot of effort into my students, as well as into enhancing the entrepreneurial opportunities, success and recognition at UC Santa Barbara and throughout the University of California System, which is what this award is all about,” said Hawker, the Alan and Ruth Heeger Chair in Interdisciplinary Science, who also serves as director of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) and the Dow Materials Institute, and is facilities director of the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL).
“We congratulate Craig Hawker on this wonderful recognition and honor from his peers,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering. “The award captures his critical contributions in the field of polymers from fundamental discovery and development, to commercialization and major societal impact in areas of medical therapeutics and personal care. We are extremely proud of Craig, who continues to serve as a role model for university research and innovation that we, at UCSB, value, encourage and foster.”
The annual Hach was established in 2012 to recognize an individual who created something where nothing existed before. In 1947, at the age of 25, Hach co-founded the Hach Chemical Company, which became instrumental in standardizing water-purification tests and pioneered many world-standard analytical instruments. Hach, who earned the nickname “Kitty” for flying her own plane across the country to sell water purification kits, died in June at the age of 97. Hawker said the award has special significance to him.
“I’m doubly honored and thrilled to receive this award because Kathryn Hach was such an inspiration, and even more so when you consider the current climate where diversity, equity and inclusion are more important than ever,” said Hawker, whose research activities focus on polymer chemistry, and integrate cross-disciplinary studies with the development of materials having unique physical and mechanical properties.
In addition to advancing fundamental polymer and materials science, Hawker’s groundbreaking research has also formed the basis for more than 80 U.S. patents and 10 start-up companies. A number of these companies have developed drugs to improve the quality of life for people who suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD).
“From my early days working with Symyx, the idea of treating a metabolic disease with a cross-linked, orally administered polymer was a powerful, yet underexplored solution to a range of existing problems. The patient mixes the drug with water and drinks it. As the polymer passes through the gastrointestinal tract, it absorbs unwanted metabolic by-products, essentially filtering out what the kidneys cannot,” said Hawker. “A lot of injected drugs have more serious side effects, but we lowered the risk by developing polymer-based drugs that do not accumulate in the body or enter the bloodstream and are flushed out when the person goes to the bathroom.”