Martine LaBerge of Clemson University is the newest recipient of the South Carolina Life Sciences Hall of Fame Award, the latest in a string of high honors recognizing her contributions to the bioengineering community in the state and beyond.
LaBerge, who joined Clemson in 1990, has served as chair of the Department of Bioengineering for 20 years. She is the Hall of Fame’s third member, joining former South Carolina Secretary of State Bobby Hitt and Harris Pastides, who was University of South Carolina president from 2008-2019 and recently returned as interim president.
A crowd of family, friends and supporters joined LaBerge in Charleston on Wednesday to help her celebrate at SCBIO 2022–The Life Sciences Conference of South Carolina.
“It is an honor to be mentioned alongside Secretary Hitt and President Pastides,” LaBerge said. “While the award bears my name, it represents a group achievement. The life sciences industry has grown in this state and is continuing to expand. It takes a team to make that happen.”
The life sciences industry has grown 1.7% annually since 2005 and has an annual impact exceeding $25.7 billion, according to SCBIO. The state has more than 1,030 life sciences firms, and the industry accounts for more than 87,000 jobs, SCBIO reported. It has grown more than 42% in South Carolina since 2017.
James Chappell, executive director of SCBIO, said LaBerge’s Hall of Fame Award is well earned.
“For more than 30 years, Dr. LaBerge has been building communities of innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who have been crucial in advancing the life sciences industry in South Carolina,” Chappell said. “Under her stewardship, Clemson’s bioengineering program is producing globally competitive graduates who are renowned for their professional and technical skills. The state is fortunate that she chose to establish her career here.”
The Hall of Fame Award was initiated in 2018 to recognize individuals “for extraordinary and notable achievements over an extended period in developing, advancing, and even transforming South Carolina’s life sciences industry,” according to SCBIO.
“Hall of Fame honorees must demonstrate business excellence and acumen, courageous thinking and action, vision and innovation, inspiring leadership, and community mindedness, while serving as an aspirational role model for those who follow.”
LaBerge received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Montreal in Quebec and did postdoctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Ontario before joining Clemson as an assistant professor in 1990.
She rose through the ranks, became interim department chair in 2002 and had the interim scrubbed from her title two years later.
LaBerge’s colleagues credit her with advancing bioengineering technology and creating interdisciplinary partnerships of scholars, entrepreneurs and industry leaders to foster innovation. She has helped Clemson establish and strengthen strategic partnerships with the likes of Arthrex, Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina.
As chair, LaBerge played a central role in establishing new bioengineering facilities, including the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC) in Greenville. She also oversaw completion of a 29,000-square-foot annex that expanded the Rhodes Engineering Research Center on Clemson’s main campus.
Her support was instrumental in establishing two separate Centers of Biomedical Excellence at Clemson, both funded with multi-million-dollar grants from the National Institutes of Health.
LaBerge has held numerous leadership positions in professional organizations, including president of the Society of Biomaterials, member of the Biomedical Engineering Society Board of Directors and chair of the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering in the U.S. and Canada.
In the past four years, LaBerge’s peers have honored her with multiple honors recognizing accomplishments throughout her career, including:
- InnoVision’s Dr. Charles Townes Individual Lifetime Achievement Award
- Clemson University Commission on Women’s Gender Equity Champion Award
- The Biomedical Engineering Society’s Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award
- Southeastern Medical Device Association (SEMDA) Spotlight Award
- Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said LaBerge is an exemplary leader and highly deserving of her recognition.
“Dr. LaBerge leads by example with dedication, passion and enthusiasm,” he said. “She works hard and inspires others to do the same, and her leadership has been key in making the Department of Bioengineering a distinguished hub of education and research that creates the innovators and leaders of the future. I offer her my wholehearted congratulations on all her success.”