The António Champalimaud Foundation has announced that Eric A. Swanson, a 1982 alumnus of the UMass Amherst Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and a research affiliate in the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, is one of the recipients of the 2012 António Champalimaud Vision Award. Presented annually, the award recognizes contributions to overall vision research and to the alleviation of visual impairments. Swanson and his collaborators were recognized for the invention of optical coherence tomography (OCT), which plays a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of the most important blinding diseases of the industrialized world: macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
OCT has had a massive impact on treatment of eye disease around the world and is one of the top ophthalmic inventions in the last 25 years. Currently, it is estimated that more than 40 million OCT diagnostic procedures are performed worldwide annually.
The Champalimaud Foundation Vision Award is for $1.3 million, one the world’s largest scientific and humanitarian prizes and the largest in visual research. The award winners were honored at a ceremony on September 14 in Lisbon, as presented by the president of Portugal.
Swanson will also be receiving an Outstanding Senior Alumni Award from the College of Engineering on October 27 in recognition for bringing honor to the College of Engineering through his professional achievements, leadership, and service to the profession, university, and society.
Mr. Swanson serves as a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a consultant at Draper Laboratory, and affiliate of the MIT Deshpande Center for Entrepreneurship. He also does a variety of volunteer activities and is editor of www.octnews.org.
Mr. Swanson was a co-founder of three successful start-up companies and is a founding board member of two more that collectively have shipped over $1 billion in products. Mr. Swanson is currently a founding chairman of Acacia Communications, a startup company focused on next-generation ultrahigh speed DWDM subsystems, a founding board member of Curata Incorporated, a web technology company making content curation SaaS products for B-to-B and B-to-C markets, and a board member of NinePoint Medical, a company making optical diagnostic imaging technology for the gastroenterology and other markets.
Prior to this, Mr. Swanson cofounded Sycamore Networks, a company developing optical networking products that had a successful $14-billion Nasdaq IPO in 1999. He served in various roles including chief scientist and general manager.
Prior to Sycamore, Mr. Swanson was a co-founder and CTO of LightLab Imaging, a biomedical imaging company focusing on commercializing optical coherence tomography for a wide range of medical markets including cardiology and endoscopy. Lightlab was acquired in 2010 by St. Jude Medical, a world-leading cardiovascular company, for $100 million.
Prior to LightLab Imaging, Mr. Swanson was a co-founder of Advanced Ophthalmic Devices, a startup focused on ophthalmologic imaging using OCT. AOD was acquired in 1994 by Carl Zeiss Meditec, a leading ophthalmic instrumentation company, and served as a foundation for Zeiss’s world-leading ophthalmic OCT product line, which has shipped about $1 billion in OCT products to date.
Prior to AOD, Mr. Swanson was involved in R&D at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory for 15 years. He served in various technical and managerial roles of a large R&D group working on Optical networks and Inter-Satellite Laser Communication Systems. Some notable results include development of one of the world’s first WDM All-Optical Networks and pioneering work in developing the world first successful inter-satellite laser communication system that was demonstrated on the GEOLite spacecraft.
Swanson has authored about 200 technical papers and conference presentations. In addition, he holds more than 32 US patents and numerous foreign patents. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In 1992 he received the prestigious Rank Prize for contributions to mankind in Opto-Electronics for his work in the field of optical coherence tomography.
Swanson holds a B.S. summa cum laude in Electrical Engineering from UMass Amherst and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (September 2012)