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Esther Takeuchi leaves Greatbatch for UB research, engineering post

The University at Buffalo has hired a distinguished inventor from Greatbatch Inc., the Clarence-based medical manufacturer, as part of a push to raise the profile of its engineering school.

Esther S. Takeuchi, chief scientist at Greatbatch Inc., will leave the company after 22 years to become a professor in UB's Chemical and Biological Engineering Department and in its Electrical Engineering department. The joint appointment begins Sept. 1.

A developer of the tiny batteries that run pacemakers and implantable defibrillators, Takeuchi has been cited by USA Today as holding perhaps the most patents of any woman inventor -- currently at 134.

She is one of 100 women elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering, and was named to Western New York's Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.

"I'm looking to attract more women and more under-represented minorities into the field," Takeuchi said. "Unfortunately today, science, technology, engineering and math are so dominated by men."

Recruiting more diverse engineering students is critical for the U.S. to keep up in a global skills race, she said.

Her appointment will help bridge UB's engineering school to the biotech industry -- starting with Greatbatch, a publicly traded device maker with $270 million in annual sales, UB officials said.

"She is precisely the type of faculty member that the UB Center of Excellence was organized to attract," said a statement from Bruce Holm, director of the center, which will partly fund Takeuchi's research.

Over five to 10 years, UB's engineering school plans to double research spending to $80 million and increase its enrollment by 30 percent, to 4,000 students, a statement said.

The school is also raising funds for a 130,000-square-foot facility at the North Campus in Amherst, according to Dean Harvey J. Stenger.

Greatbatch will continue to work closely with Takeuchi as her research moves to the campus realm, chief executive Thomas J. Hook said in a statement.

Takeuchi and her team are credited with developing the lithium battery that made possible the implantable defibrillator in the 1980s. The devices shock the heart back to its normal rhythm during a heart attack. More than 200,000 of the units are implanted a year, UB's statement said.

Moving to UB will grant the latitude to pursue research not necessarily of interest to the company, Takeuchi said, while building on her base of work in the private sector. The field of battery research has possible uses for homeland security as well as medical devices, she said.

She declined to state her UB salary, but said it is somewhat less than she earned at Greatbatch. Recent changes at the company, which named Hook as its CEO last year, had no bearing on her departure, she said.

A resident of Amherst, Takeuchi, 53, received her doctorate in chemistry at Ohio State University and completed post-doctoral work at the University of North Carolina and UB. Her husband, Kenneth Takeuchi, is a professor in UB's Chemistry department.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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