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Toner, Mehmet

Toner, Mehmet (b. July 28, 1958, Istanbul), scientist awarded the Vehbi Koç Award for health in 2019. He won recognition for his study, in which he developed a new microchip technology that enables the detection of cancerous cells in the blood in a very short period of time and his research has spawned of promising new solutions for the treatment of cancer.

Professor Mehmet Toner received an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Istanbul Technical University in 1983 and a master’s degree in the same field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1985. He subsequently completed his PhD in medical engineering at Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in 1989, joining the faculty at Harvard the same year. Becoming a full professor in 2002, Prof. Toner has a joint appointment as a professor of Health Sciences and Technology at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He is also the founder of the Center for Engineering in Medicine and the BioMEMS Resource Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Mehmet Toner's research has contributed to universal science in terms of both basic mechanisms and practices in three interconnected areas. The first is ‘cryopreservation’, a research field that involves low-temperature freezing and stabilization of tissues and organs; the second is creating an “artificial organ” with three-dimensional and functional organization of living cells and synthetic materials; and the third is developing micro and nano bioengineering technologies and critical applications. These researches form the basis of technologies that have been extensively studied, and some already implemented both in the industry and in clinical medicine in the fields of human egg and sperm freezing and tissue protection, artificial liver and cancer, respectively.

His study on cancer research has attracted more attention from his broad area of research interest. He developed a microchip technology that enables the detection of a single cancer cell among billions of blood cells in the space of an hour, and his research has spawned an entire generation of promising new solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The new technologies developed by Mehmet Toner also pave the way for personalized cancer treatment.

More than his 500 scientific articles, books and patents, has received more than 25.000 citations and referenced.  He has published in most reputable journals, including Science and Nature in the field of general sciences, Applied Physics in the field of fundamental sciences and New England Journal of Medicine in the field of clinic.

Vehbi Koç Award Selection Committee selected Professor Mehmet Toner as the recipient of the 2019 award, in recognition for his “attribution that he is regarded as the ultimate example of ethics and scientific morality, extraordinary collaboration and contribution to raising over 200 young researchers and support their independent careers.”
He serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of Özyeğin University. He is a member of the Science Academy (Turkey), the National Academy of Engineering (USA), the National Academy of Inventors (USA), and the National Academy of Medicine (USA). In 2010, he was selected to become a member of the advisory committee of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in USA. In 2017, he was elected to the rank of member by the National Academy of Engineering.

Mehmet Toner received the YC Fung Faculty Award (1994), Whitaker Foundation Special Opportunity Award (1995), Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Award (2008) and American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Team Award (2010). He was selected to become a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (1998) and National Academy of Inventors (NAI) (2016).

Please click to watch the film about the life and work of Professor Mehmet Toner, recipient of the 18th Vehbi Koç Award.

Please click to watch Professor Mehmet Toner’s acceptance speech at the 18th Vehbi Koç Award ceremony.


Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.