The final 44 awards were divided among 34 colleges and universities across the United States.
The Biomedical Engineering Research Grants Program, which began at a time when there was little funding available for engineers in medicine, has helped establish the careers of 1,660 biomedical engineers, who have mentored more than 13,000 students.
Whitaker investigators have created more than 200 products and devices and started more than 100 health technology companies, according to a foundation survey. They have secured nearly 400 patents and licenses.
Research supported by the grants has resulted in numerous medical devices and treatments that are widely used, including heart-assist pumps, defibrillators, and tools for image-guided surgery.
Whitaker investigators have unlocked secrets of the immune system, developed prototype artificial arms controlled by thought waves, produced the most sensitive PET scanners, and have been on the forefront of cutting-edge research in cellular, molecular, and tissue engineering.
"The legacy of the Biomedical Engineering Research Grants Program will be a generation of bright and productive investigators who will carry the field forward with advances in basic and applied research," said Whitaker Foundation President Peter G. Katona, Sc.D. "These investigators, in turn, will educate and inspire the next generation of biomedical engineers."
The foundation has invested a total of $153 million in this program since it began in 1976. Back then, the field was young and did not fit well within the established grant-making structures of the federal government, the nation's largest sponsor of academic research. There was also limited support from private funding sources.