Local Innovators in Business, Technology, and Science Honored by President

It was a big day down in Washington for several members of the Kendall Square innovation community. President George Bush handed out the 2005 and 2006 National Medals of Technology and National Medals of Science, and four notable locals were among the recipients.

I watched the webcast of the ceremony with a crowd of some 200 Genzyme employees who had filled the company’s auditorium at 500 Kendall Street to witness Genzyme Chairman and CEO Henri Termeer accept a National Medal of Technology. According to a press release, the medal was awarded to the company “for pioneering a unique business that has led to dramatic improvements in the health of thousands of patients with rare diseases and harnessing the promise of biotechnology to develop innovative new therapies.”

Bush’s opening remarks had the Genzyme crowd in stitches. Looking uncannily like a “Saturday Night Live” parody of himself, the president stumbled through short descriptions of some of the accomplishments being celebrated in such fields as big bang theory and non-linear statistics. His best line: “I’m going to play like I understand what all that means.”

Back in Cambridge, Genzyme employees’ cheers turned to sighs as Termeer was called to the stage—and identified as the CEO of “Genzeeme.” Faring better, pronunciation-wise, were MIT’s President Emeritus Charles M. Vest, bioengineer Robert S. Langer, and atomic physicist Daniel Kleppner. (Vest and Langer are both Xconomists.)

Vest received a technology medal “for his visionary leadership in advancing America’s technological workforce and capacity for innovation through revitalizing the national partnership among academe, government and industry,” according to an MIT announcement. Langer and Kleppner were given science medals—Langer for his tissue-engineering and drug-delivery work, and Kleppner “for pioneering scientific studies of the interaction of atoms and light [and] developing techniques that opened the way to Bose Einstein Condensation in a gas,” as well as for explaining physics to laypeople (maybe he could help the President) and “exemplary service to the scientific community.”

A transcript of the ceremony, with a link to the video, is here.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and chairman. You can email him at bbuderi@xconomy.com. Follow @bbuderi

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