Distinguished University Professor and Scientific Director of the Shipley Center for Innovation Gabor Forgacs will be named professor emeritus at Clarkson University's 124th Commencement on May 13. He will be honored for 21 years of exemplary service to the University.
A theoretical physicist turned bioengineer turned innovator-entrepreneur, Forgacs was a member of the Clarkson physics faculty from 1986 to 2000. He returned in 2009 to serve as executive and scientific director for the Shipley Center for Innovation, where his unique expertise in business and science helped propel discovery-driven Clarkson innovations to the marketplace.
“We arrived in this country in 1986 and I became an associate professor of physics at that time,” Forgacs recalls. “While I was on the physics faculty I trained myself into a biological physicist and started my own lab with help from the university. In 2000, I moved to the University of Missouri, where I was invited as the George H. Vineyard Professor of Biological Physics and where the huge life sciences infrastructure was more conducive to my changed research interest. My wife had a fantastic medical career in Potsdam, so I traveled back and forth. After 10 years, I returned to Clarkson. As I had ventured into the commercial world in Missouri, leading the Shipley Center was mutually beneficial to Clarkson and me.”
His intellectual and geographical explorations continued. Forgacs pioneered “bioprinting,” i.e., building tissue on demand. He founded two biotech companies, Organovo and Modern Meadow, which focus on commercial tissue printing technology and the ethical fabrication of animal products.
The San Diego-based Organovo created the world’s first practical 3D tissue printer, which Time magazine selected as one of the “Best Inventions of 2010.” Among his many honors, Forgacs was named as one of the “100 most innovative people in business in 2010” by FastCompany and, this year, was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors.
Modern Meadow engineers leather without slaughtering any animal. Leather is resource intensive for land and water, so its industrial production is not a sustainable practice, he notes.
“I started out as an academic scientist and never dreamed of doing something so useful for society. I feel very fortunate,” he says.
Forgacs has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and several books. He co-authored the internationally known text book Biological Physics of the Developing Embryo. He has also lectured at numerous national and international conferences.
In 2012, in recognition for educating the faculty and students for the 21st Century entrepreneurial workplace, Forgacs was named the Karel K. Czanderna '77 and W. Dan Shirkey '80 Professor in Physics and scientific director of the Shipley Center.
He does not attach the word “retired” to himself, preferring to say “stepping down.” His commercial aspirations are spreading, not slowing down, and he has other commitments as well, he points out.
“I was just lucky,” he says. “My son is the business man -- he enticed me, but I love it now. It has been a great run.”
Forgacs received his Ph.D. at the Roland Eotvos University, Budapest, and Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics, Moscow. He received his master of science and doctoral degrees from Roland Eotvos University in Budapest.