Professor Emeritus, BENG
An Institute for the Global Entrepreneur founding director; artificial hearts; team builder in medical progress; National Academy of Engineering member
A mechanical engineer, physiologist, and former director of clinical and molecular medicine, Professor Watson's mission is finding ways to reduce how long it takes medical technology to move from concept into the clinic. Treatments such as medical implants ranging from dental crowns to artificial knees, hips, and heart valves now are commonplace. Given the benefits, Watson believes it takes too long - 25 years on average - for new implants to move from proof of concept to clinical acceptance. He proposes a coordinated approach to answer clinical, regulatory and payment questions simultaneously. He spent 28 years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and helped initiate the federal small business innovation research program, and new study sections that put bioengineering and other applied interventions on equal footing in the competition for federal grants. At NIH, Watson's progressive style and a penchant for bringing problem-solvers together was refreshing in an arena where regulatory and administrative hurdles often are as difficult for promising technology as scientific challenges. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1998, becoming the first member so recognized from the NIH. The diagnosis and treatment of heart failure remains his main clinical research area. He is recognized for the conception, design, development, and clinical trial of left ventricular assist devices and the artificial heart, and for contributing to the federal regulatory and payment decision-making process. Among his honors: He was an invited member of the Nominating Committee for the Nobel Prize, the Japanese Kyoto Prize, and the NAE Draper Prize.
Before coming fulltime to UCSD in December 2003, John T. Watson was NIH's Director of Clinical and Molecular Medicine of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He oversaw 60 major clinical trials involving thousands of patients and contributed to advances in cardiovascular imaging, biomaterials, mechanical circulatory support devices, genomics and proteomics, tissue engineering and regeneration, computational biology and informatics, and randomized clinical trials. He received a Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1972.