In commemoration of Molly Shoichet‘s recent rank to University Professor, the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering hosted the Molly Shoichet Symposium on Innovations in Regenerative Medicine on June 4, 2015.
The event brought in celebrated scholars from the field, including Shoichet’s long-time friend David Mooney, a professor of bioengineering at Harvard University.
“I met Molly at a conference in the mid-90’s. We tried to find a museum together and ended-up instead at the La Brea Tar Pits. I learned a very important lesson from her that afternoon, which applies to my research today,” says Mooney. “Where you end up is not necessarily where you plan to go. You can’t be confined in your research thinking.”
Mooney began his career studying tissue engineering and is now an immunotherapeutic expert. Most notably, he and his team developed programmable biomaterial injections that induce the immune system to go into attack mode to fight cancer and build long-lasting immune resistance to cancer cells.
Other speakers at the symposium included:
Cindi Morshead, a neuroscientist and professor at U of T, who – in conjunction with Shoichet and other experts – applies her research in stem cell biology and neural regeneration to activate neural precursor cells to promote self-repair of brains injured by stroke or other ailments.
Xudong Cao (ChemE MASc 9T8, PhD 0T1), a chemical and bioengineering professor at the University of Ottawa, who developed techniques to pattern cells on biocompatible hydrogels. His work generates highly controlled cell microenvironments within materials that mimic the physicochemical properties of native tissues and promotes technology creation that will further enhance the knowledge of cell biology and development of novel tissue engineering devices.
Kevin Healy, a professor of bioengineering and material science at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies bioinspired material systems to regulate stem cell function. He and his group developed synthetic hydrogels, novel 3D matrices and biointerfaces to assess factors that potentially affect stem cell function and fate determination.
Jeff Karp (ChemE PhD 0T4), a bioengineering professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, who develops technologies to battle some of the most challenging medical problems. Namely, minimally invasive sealing of tissues and wounds including blood vessels and heart tissue, achieving long term local immunosuppression for vascular treatments, and engineered stem cell therapy for treatment of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and prostate cancer.
Innovation in the world of bioengineering, although awe-inspiring, is a long road.
The diverse findings covered during the symposium are the result of tireless years of persistence, dedication and partnership among several individuals and groups.
Over the past 20 years, Shoichet’s own research has resulted in 32 patents, 162 researchers trained, 25+ collaborations worldwide and numerous industry partnerships. Her project, biomimetic hydrogels for 3D cell culture, was first published in 2004 with a seminal paper in Nature Materials, followed by another significant advance in 2011 (also published in Nature Materials). This research now sets the stage for applications in drug screening and understanding disease progression.
“What makes all the hard work and commitment worthwhile is knowing that we’re addressing some of the most difficult questions in engineering and biology, our research will one day make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of many, and our work may potentially be the springboard for future innovations to come,” says Shoichet.
Dr. Molly Shoichet holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering. She is an expert in the study of polymers for drug delivery and regeneration, which are materials that promote healing in the body. In addition, Shoichet has published over 480 papers and abstracts, given over 310 lectures worldwide, and founded two spin-off companies based on research conducted from her lab at U of T.
To view pictures from the Molly Shoichet Symposium on Innovations in Regenerative Medicine, click here.