At the time, employment conditions in France for young researchers like Breton weren’t good, and a large social movement around the issue was in full swing.
It was also around that time when Breton – through UVA engineering professor Donald Brown – was introduced to School of Medicine professor Boris Kovatchev to help apply a mathematical model to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder data that Kovatchev’s team was working on. It led to Kovatchev offering Breton a postdoctoral position to work on his diabetes research project.
While working within the medical field had been the furthest thing from Breton’s mind, the decision to stay at UVA actually didn’t prove that difficult.
“It was stay here and have a job with someone I’ve enjoyed working with, and in a subject that could be interesting and I don’t know much about,” Breton recalled, “or I can go back and try to find a job in the middle of a social movement.”
Teaming with Kovatchev, Breton went on to create the first – and to date only – simulation environment accepted by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration as a replacement for animal studies in pre-clinical assessment of insulin treatment strategies. It paved the way for the pair’s invention of a revolutionary artificial pancreas that could monitor and automatically regulate a person’s blood glucose levels.
Today, the work that Breton started when he was a post-doc nearly 20 years ago continues to improve the lives of people with diabetes around the world.
It is for this reason that UVA Licensing & Ventures Group Executive Director Richard W. Chylla said Breton was chosen as the recipient of the 2022 Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year award. The endowed award recognizes University faculty members or a team of faculty researchers whose work is making a major impact on society.
“Here at UVA LVG, our mission is to grow and guide University innovations, but equally important is to make a positive impact on society at large,” Chylla said. “If you look at the total return on Dr. Breton’s work at UVA – the lives of patients improved, the jobs created, the continuing sponsored research and the royalties back to the University for research reinvestment – it is a testament to this mission. Dr. Breton’s work deserves this recognition, and we are proud to celebrate him.”
Kovatchev says Breton, an associate professor in psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences in the School of Medicine, is one of a kind.
“Marc has a unique ability to see, compartmentalize and solve problems,” said Kovatchev, the co-founder and director of the Center for Diabetes Technology. “This is a rare combination, and it drove him to this success.”