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2002-2003

Biomembrane Pioneer Stephen Matson Joins WPI

Sepracor Co-Founder & NAE Member to Hold New Frances Manning Chair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/October 7, 2002
Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

Worcester, Mass. - October 7, 2002 - Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) announces the appointment of Stephen L. Matson to the newly created Frances Manning Chair in WPI's chemical engineering department. A pioneer and champion of new membrane reactor technologies, Matson joins WPI after a successful 20-year career in the private sector. He has a track record of not only conceiving new technologies, but developing them into successful commercial ventures - most notably as a co-founder of the publicly traded, specialty pharmaceutical company, Sepracor. His numerous accomplishments led to his election as Director of American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

At WPI, Matson will continue his exploration into synthetic membranes, focusing on membrane reactors as platforms for applications as diverse as advanced chemical processing and high-throughput DNA sequencing. Like much of his work, these problems involve both fundamental aspects of chemical engineering science and applications. He also hopes to begin work on the fabrication and exploitation of ultrathin films from a variety of "interesting" and somewhat exotic materials such as self-assembling liquid crystals.

"We are blessed to have such an esteemed and well-known researcher, scholar and entrepreneur as Steve Matson decide to join us here at WPI," says Ravindra Datta, head of the WPI's chemical engineering department. "I think this speaks highly of our department and WPI. Additionally, for our students, Matson will be an extremely positive influence in imparting his real-world, commercial experience and excitement about the discipline to guide future engineers and researchers."

Since his Ph.D. thesis work at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1970s, Matson has been a leader in developing membrane reactors. His work is considered by many as the first to envision and demonstrate the use of catalytic membranes for practical applications.

At Sepracor, Matson led an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers in the commercialization of membrane reactors, an effort that culminated in the construction of a full-scale enzyme membrane reactor plant used in the production of the angina and hypertension drug Cardizem®. Today, Sepracor focuses on developing improved single-isomer and active-metabolite versions of existing drugs, and markets or out-licenses a number of respiratory drugs including Allegra®, Clarinex® and Xopenex®.

Matson has also participated in founding two other companies, Versicor and Otter Coast Automation, based on combinatorial chemistry as applied to drug discovery, and he has served in various capacities with several Sepracor spin-offs including Biosphere Medical (focusing on embolotherapy), ChiRex/Rhodia (chiral synthesis/separations), and HemaSure/Whatman (leukoreduction). Previously, Matson served for two years as director of research for Bend Research, Inc., and before that he was engaged in membrane research for ten years at GE's Corporate R&D Center.

Despite the proprietary nature of much of his activity, Matson has published actively in the scientific and patent literature. The body of his scientific and technical work has been recognized by his peers by his receipt of the Professional Progress Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in 1993; his election as a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering in 1997; and his induction into the National Academy of Engineering in 1995.

Matson earned a Ph.D. in chemical and biochemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering from Cornell University.

About WPI

WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education, and is recognized as one of the leading outcomes-oriented undergraduate programs preparing people for success in our technological world. Since its founding in 1865, WPI has broadened and perfected an influential curriculum that balances theory and practice.

This innovative and unique combination of educational methods, learning environment and a worldwide network of project centers is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Its main campus is located in Worcester, Massachusetts. WPI supports the academic and research pursuits of over 2,800 undergraduate students, 1,200 graduate students and 220 faculty pursuing opportunities to blend technological research and practice with societal needs, delivering meaningful real-world benefits.

For over a century, WPI has awarded advanced degrees in the sciences and engineering disciplines, as well as the management of technology and business. Our alumni include Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry; Harold Black, inventor of the principle of negative-feedback; Carl Clark, inventor of the first practical airbag safety system; Dean Kamen, inventor of the first wearable drug infusion pump; and many others who contribute to the transformation of our technological world.