AUSTIN—The SXSW 2018 program says Deka founder Dean Kamen holds more than 450 patents, and that is technically true. But that number is almost 10 years old; Kamen’s name now appears on well over 1,000 patents.
And these patents are for real things that impact the lives of real people: the world’s first drug infusion pump; the HomeChoice portable dialysis machine; the “Luke Arm” prosthesis; and the cow-dung-powered Slingshot water purifier.
Of course, most people also know him as the guy who invented the Segway. But these days he’s applying his talents to a new goal: mass manufacturing of human organs.
I spoke with Kamen here at SXSW about his process for innovation, doing work that matters, and how his engineering background could help jumpstart the next generation of biological science breakthroughs. We also discussed FIRST, the international robotics competition he organizes, which now includes more than 7,000 teams from across the globe.
Kamen’s Deka Research & Development Corp. innovates from Manchester, New Hampshire, but Kamen does not feel removed form the tech world.
“I’m less than an hour from downtown Boston; I’m less than an hour from Dartmouth, I have plenty of talent to draw on,” Kamen says. “I can land a helicopter every day at my house every day, which I do, every day, on acres and acres of land. And when I take off, I can see the Hancock building and the Prudential Center on the horizon so that I can get there very quickly.”
Kamen recently opened a new facility next door called the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). Its mission is to serve as the nexus between the cutting-edge biology labs that are replicating human tissue and the engineering expertise it takes to make those scientific advances and scale them.
“We are not the labs that do this basic research, but we know where they are,” Kamen says.
What’s Kamen’s favorite invention? “I don’t know it hasn’t happened yet.”
Watch my complete interview with Kamen above.
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