AirSep exec wins National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Jan 8, 2013, 2:38pm EST UPDATED: Jan 9, 2013, 3:52pm EST

AirSep exec wins National Medal of Technology and Innovation

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Norman McCombs, a University at Buffaloalumnus and executive at Amherst-basedAirSep Corp., has been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the U.S. government’s highest honor for technological achievement.

McCombs, who lives in Tonawanda, “developed an oxygen production system that spawned a billion dollar industry and helped ease the pain of millions suffering from lung diseases,” according to a release issued by UB. He is AirSep’s senior vice president of research and development.

President Obama will present the medal to McCombs and other award winners at a Feb. 1 ceremony at the White House.

The award is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’sPatent and Trademark Office and recognizes those “who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce,” according to a White House statement.

McCombs is the third person with UB ties to receive the medal. Former engineering professor Esther Takeuchi was honored in 2007 for developing a battery used to power implantable cardiac defibrillators. Wilson Greatbatch, founder of Greatbatch Inc. and a UB alumnus and faculty member, received the award in 1990.

McCombs developed a method of separating gases that produces oxygen, leading to a device called an oxygen concentrator, which is used to treat people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There are currently about 1.2 million oxygen concentrators in the U.S. alone, a more than $2 billion industry.

Dan Miner is Business First’s enterprise reporter. He also covers education and public companies.

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