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The success of an innovative medical tool has earned Brian H. Luscombe '89 the Johnson Medal, the highest honor bestowed upon employees in research and development at Johnson & Johnson. Recognizing both innovation and commercial success, the award has been given only 180 times in the last 42 years. Along with two coworkers, Luscombe developed an absorbable suture anchor, a device surgeons use to reattach tendons and ligaments to bone.

“This was the first fully absorbable anchor when it came on the market in 1997, made of a polymer that dissolves after it's been in the body for a couple years,” explains Luscombe. “A hole is drilled into the bone to put the anchor in. The anchor is inserted into the hole with a strand coming out. The surgeon puts it through the tendon or ligament and pulls it back down to the bone, tying a knot in the suture. Over time, the hole fills back in with bone.”

The anchor eliminates the problems associated with metal anchors, which can damage a joint after dislodging and can interfere with X-rays. “It's become a very substantial component of our sports medicine business in terms of revenue,” says Luscombe.

After finishing the project in the early '90s, Luscombe moved into business development within the company in 1995 to work on licensing and acquisitions, and last year, he entered product marketing. He earned a master's in engineering management from Dartmouth College in 1991 and an MBA from Columbia Business School in 2000.

Luscombe graduated from Lafayette as a double major in biology and mechanical engineering. “Being a double major helped me in terms of getting my first job with Johnson and Johnson,” he says. “I got very good education through the mechanical engineering department and had some very good teachers along the way, including Dr. (Leonard) Van Gulick, Dr. (Michael) Paolino and Dr. (Richard) Merz. My engineering degree was always something that wasn't just a degree, but a set of skills and knowledge about how to develop products.”

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles