Robert K. Prud’homme, whose drug manufacturing techniques enabled vaccines for COVID-19 and treatments for many devastating diseases, has been elected into the National Academy of Engineering.
Membership in the National Academy of Engineering is widely seen as one of the highest honors in the engineering profession. The 2024 class includes 114 members and 21 international members — researchers from across industry, academia and government. Prud’homme, a professor of chemical and biological engineering, emeritus, was honored for “mass manufacture of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and other applications to improve human health.”
In 2002, Prud’homme and graduate student Brian Johnson developed a technique to produce nanoparticles that has since changed how many medicines are made and distributed. The approach, called Flash Nanoprecipitation (FNP), can produce a continuous flow of particles that are each a million times smaller than a grain of table salt, each perfectly formed and loaded with molecules that are often difficult to encapsulate using other methods.
The result has been treatments that are cheap to manufacture at a global scale and stable enough to move from the factory floor through the supply chain, through the bloodstream into target cells. Prud’homme has worked closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on developing this technology for global health applications, including treatments for malaria, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis and diarrhea. He has also worked closely with major pharmaceutical companies on fine-tuning the technique for next-generation therapeutics, including cancer vaccines.
Before Prud’homme joined the Princeton faculty, in 1978, he completed a bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, both in chemical engineering. He also served four years in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of Captain and was awarded a Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal. In 2016, he co-founded Optimeos Life Sciences, a biotech company that has commercialized his nanoparticle technology to address a broad range of diseases and conditions. Prud’homme is the recipient of many honors, including election into the National Academy of Inventors, the Thomas A. Edison Patent Award, election as a Fellow into the Society of Rheology, and a Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum Award from the American Institute for Chemical Engineers. He transferred to emeritus status in September 2023.