Special Award for Space Technology Utilization, 1997

Dr. Michael E. DeBakey

Dr. Michael DeBakey
Dr. Michael DeBakey, Space Tech Utilization Award with NASA heart patient, David Saucier

See the banquet agenda.

[Note, the following is the text as printed in the 1997 RNASA program book. Dr. DeBakey died in July, 2008 at the age of 99.]

The RNASA Foundation is proud to present the 1997 Technology Utilization Award to Michael E. DeBakey, M.D. for the innovative application of space technology to the benefit of mankind.

DeBakey is chancellor emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine, Olga Keith Wiess & Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery, and Director of The DeBakey Heart Center of Baylor and the Methodist Hospital. He has earned world renown as a surgeon, innovator, medical educator, and international medical statesman. While still a student, he devised a pump that later became one of the essential components of the heart-lung machine that made open-heart surgery possible. He has since developed over 50 surgical instruments.

One of these instruments is the focus of the RNASA Award: the NASA/DeBakey Heart Pump. This compact device has only one moving part and no shaft seals. It provides 5 liters/min. of blood flow and uses under 10 Watts. It is intended as an implantable heart assist device for the nearly 60,000 patients a year awaiting transplants. It is especially well-suited for children whose chest cavities are too small for the large, complex designs currently on the market.

The design resulted from a cooperative effort between NASA and DeBakey's team at Baylor. The basic concepts for the electrical and hydrodynamics' aspects of the pump and controller were conceived by NASA engineers. Additionally, software developed for the Space Shuttle turbo-pump was used to help design some of the subtle details of the pump.

A license was recently granted to commercialize the NASA/DeBakey heart pump technology. Already, it has demonstrated one month of continuous operation in calf testing at Baylor. Long term implantation tests are under way.

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