Many of the Battelle’s most celebrated innovations share something in common: the magic touch of Dr. Steve Risser. Since joining Battelle in 1999, Steve has worked on 250 projects, led and supported five strategic initiatives, helped spin off a company and assisted in monetizing close to a dozen inventions.
His work and patents have now earned him recognition as a Battelle Distinguished Inventor and Battelle’s Inventor of the Year for 2017.
Over the years, Steve’s research has spanned energy storage, photovoltaics, protective equipment and medical devices. An advanced materials expert with a Ph.D. in Physics from Kent State University, Steve’s main areas of technical focus are electromagnetics, electrochemical properties and biomolecular interfaces. He applies this expertise to the development and application of novel materials to improve product performance or enable new product functions for medical, defense and industrial clients.
A significant percentage of his work has focused on the medical device field. “Medical devices can be very complicated,” he explains. “You are bringing biological materials in contact with a variety of substrates that can lead to unexpected challenges. There are real opportunities for novel inventions that address these challenges in different ways.”
One of the innovative medical products Steve helped to develop is an adjustable replacement lens for patients undergoing cataract surgery. The technology allows the surgeon to fine tune the lens after implantation. This allows for correction of vision abnormalities that can’t be treated with a conventional lens due to its slight shift in position during healing. The novel approach to vision adjustment is an improvement on similar technologies already in use in Europe. Battelle is currently looking for a partner to bring the technology to market.
Steve also was instrumental in the creation of a sleeve technology that is part of the Battelle NeuroLife™ neural bypass system. NeuroLife was used to enable a quadriplegic man to regain control of his hand and fingers. Brain signals picked up by a chip implanted in his motor cortex are interpreted using data analytics and translated into electrical signals delivered to his arm via an electrode-impregnated sleeve, bypassing the damaged portions of his spinal cord. Steve and his team developed a gel that improves contact for the electrodes in the sleeve and allows the electrical signals to better penetrate the outer layers of skin to stimulate the muscles.
Steve’s prolific work is reflected in his patents. This year, he received his 17th patent, earning him a gold medal as a Battelle Distinguished Inventor – an honor shared with fewer than 100 other scientists. He currently has another 17 patent applications pending. He has also produced 72 Intellectual Property Disclosure Records during his time at Battelle.
However, he is not one to rest on his laurels. He is continuing work on several current projects at Battelle, including development and validation of a new manufacturing process that will allow a diagnostic device manufacturer to move a novel technology into high-speed production.
Reflecting on his work at Battelle, Steve says, “There are still a lot of problems left to solve out there—and a lot of new opportunities.”