MED-EL founders nominated for European Inventor Award 2014 / European Patent Office honors most important innovations of recent years

Ingeborg Hochmair, PhD, and Erwin Hochmair, MD, PhD

The European Patent Office (EPO) has officially announced the nominees for this year’s European Inventor Award. Among the three nominees of the category lifetime achievement are Ingeborg Hochmair, PhD, and Erwin Hochmair, MD, PhD, the husband-and-wife team founders of the MED-EL company. In September of last year, Ingeborg Hochmair was recognized with the prestigious Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (87 Lasker-DeBakey Award recipients have received a Nobel Prize).

In the 1970s, the Hochmairs played key roles in the development of the first micro-electronic multi-channel cochlear implant, and since then cochlear implants have opened the world of hearing to more than 100,000 people suffering hearing loss, says the company. The European Inventor Award annually honors scientists worldwide who substantially contribute to the technological progress and economic growth. Among the winners in the category lifetime achievement are scientists like the physician Martin Schadt for the invention of the LCD technology and virologist Erik De Clercq for his contribution to antiviral therapy. The official presentation of the award winner will take place on June 17, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

It’s about the spirit of invention

The European Inventor Award was initiated by the EPO in 2006. The key premise for the jury is the inventors’ creativity, which brings forward technological progress and helps improve the daily lives of many people in the world. “The development and launch of the first micro-electronic multi-channel cochlear implant changed the lives of many hearing impaired people,” explains the EPO. “Thanks to this high-tech device and the technology of electrical stimulation people with severe-to-profound hearing loss are given the chance to hear again and lead a normal life.” Along with the nomination of the Hochmairs, scientists from the areas of medicine and electrical engineering are also nominated for the category lifetime achievement.

Interdisciplinary research from the beginning

The foundation for the development of the modern cochlear implant was laid in the 1970s by scientists like Ingeborg and Erwin Hochmair who worked at the Vienna University of Technology. According to MED-EL, the first micro-electronic multi-channel cochlear implant, developed by the two scientists, was successfully inserted into a patient in Vienna for the first time in 1977. “We are very pleased about the nomination,” said the Hochmairs in a press statement. “To be nominated once more puts public emphasis on the topic of hearing loss and the chances given through cochlear implantation.”

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Source: MED-EL