Dr. Noreen J. Hickok Speaks at the IRE Seminar Series

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

On February 10th, we were honored to have Dr. Noreen Hickok, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, speak as part of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering Seminar Series. Dr. Hickok delivered a talk entitled “Orthopaedic Implants and Infection: Surfaces, Synovial Fluid, and the Joint Environment.”

Dr. Hickok was one of my collaborators at Drexel University, and we published a research article in Journal of Orthopaedic Research. For the last 15 years, she and her colleagues have been exploring various means for preventing the establishment of infection in the presence of an implant. Dr. Hickok’s research interests center on strategies to subvert the ability of microorganisms to colonize these implants, as well as to prevent their propagation in the space immediately surrounding the implant. She received a Bachelor of Science from MIT and a PhD from Brandeis University. Her postdoctoral research involved protein biochemistry, molecular endocrinology, and molecular biology. Her interest in cellular/bacterial interactions with surfaces and their regulation now dominates her research, resulting in the development of antibacterial surfaces that are while maintaining cellular compatibility as well as new insights on the role of the implant environment.

We look forward to bringing other leaders in Regenerative Engineering to speak as part of this seminar series here at UConn Health.

Two Genes Lectureship at Northwestern

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I was honored to give the prestigious Two Genes Lecture at the Northwestern University School of Engineering. The lectureship is named after two past distinguished biomaterials scientists at Northwestern, Eugene W. Skinner and Eugene P. Lautenschlager. I discussed the work currently going on at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering including our newest initiative, the Hartford Engineering a Limb (HEAL) project. As a visiting professor at Northwestern, I had the opportunity to spend time with my longtime colleagues and friends, Professor Guillermo Ameer and Professor Sam Stupp. Both are great leaders in Biomedical Engineering. It was particularly gratifying for me to meet the graduate students at Northwestern. They are a highly skilled and dedicated group. I am grateful in particular to Professor Evan Scott, a young star in biomedical engineering whom I’ve met at national scientific meetings. He helped host me and provided a gracious introduction to my lecture.

Research!America’s Mary Woolley Visits UConn Health

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Research!America’s Mary Woolley Visits UConn Health

On December 16th, Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance, gave a presentation in Low Learning Center as part of the CICATS Luncheon Seminar Series. It was hosted by CICATS and the Kavli Foundation.

As the CEO of CICATS, I had the pleasure of introducing Ms. Woolley, and she spoke about the importance of advocacy and how scientists should do more to build relationships with their elected officials and policymakers. She referenced the recent passage of the “21st Century Cures” bill as proof that forging relationships can produce positive results. Watch her talk in its entirety.

After the seminar, we toured the Institute for Regenerative Engineering and celebrated the great work and philanthropy of our common friends, Raymond and Beverly Sackler for whom our endowed center is named.

IRE’s Lakshmi Nair Elected NAI Fellow

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I am very happy to announce Dr. Lakshmi Nair has been elected to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Dr. Nair is one of the youngest individuals to be elected to the NAI, and she is now the third person (preceded by Dr. Pramod Srivastava and me) to be elected at UConn. She currently serves as a tenured associate professor of orthopedic surgery and associate director for science administration in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering at UConn Health; and also as a faculty member of biomedical engineering, materials science and engineering at UConn.

Election to NAI Fellow status is “the highest professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.” Dr. Nair’s novel research focuses on the development of new therapies using regenerative biomaterials to enhance tissue repair and regeneration, including innovative ways to regrow musculoskeletal tissue.

In April, Dr. Nair will be inducted during NAI’s 6th Annual Conference which will take place at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. With the election of the 2016 class, she is now one of 757 NAI Fellows, representing 229 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Nair.

Inaugural Regenerative Engineering Society Meeting

Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

The National Academy of Engineering hosted the inaugural meeting of the Regenerative Engineering Society on December 10 and 11 in Irvine, CA. Sponsored by both the National Science Foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the meeting took place at the Beckman Center. The theme of the meeting was “Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering” and featured four leaders in the field who discussed their work. The “Rock Stars” included: Rui Reis of University of Minho (Portugal); David Gardiner of University of California, Irvine; Ali Khademhousseini of M.I.T.; and Roderic Pettigrew of NIH/NIBIB.

This was indeed an historic event for the Regenerative Engineering Society, an organization that works to push the boundaries of how we think about regeneration through the creation of a community that knows no bounds. On behalf of the organizing committee of the Regenerative Engineering Society, I want to thank and congratulate everyone who participated. I look forward to our next Rock Stars meeting, and to further building our membership.

Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering    Rock Stars of Regenerative Engineering

Kate Hayden of CICATS Receives 2016 40 Under Forty Award

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Kate Hayden of CICATS Receives 2016 40-Under-Forty Award

I was happy to learn Kate Hayden, Research Facilitator and Community Outreach Coordinator for CICATS, has been named one of the Hartford Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty for 2016. As a CICATS team member, Kate has led the planning of multiple health disparities projects. She is also expanding our connections with community organizations for outreach events and education, which lead to partnerships for community-based participatory research grants.

Presented in September at the Connecticut Convention Center, the 40-Under-Forty Awards recognize outstanding young professionals in the Greater Hartford area who excel in their industries. They are driven by success, motivated by challenges and are role models for their peers. These individuals are part of an outstanding class of up and coming business leaders who share a commitment to business success, personal growth, and community involvement.

Please join me in congratulating Kate.

Indian National Academy of Engineering

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I am happy to announce I was elected a Foreign Fellow by the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) for the outstanding accomplishments bridging engineering and medicine. This was the second time I was honored by India. In 2015, the Indian National Academy of Sciences also elected me as a Foreign Fellow. I am so fortunate to be the first American-born scientist elected to both academies. I am honored to be recognized by my colleagues and peers in. I am also honored to represent the University of Connecticut, demonstrating to the world the great level of science that is present at our school. I look forward to further collaborations with the talented engineers and scientists of India to advance knowledge in the service of mankind.

Presentation of the Nominees for 2016 Prix Galien USA Best Medical Technology

By Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting the nominees for the 2016 Prix Galien Best Medical Technology Award in the Prix Galien USA Gala Awards Ceremony at New York City’s Museum of Natural History. The Prix Galien was created in 1970 in France by a pharmacist named Roland Mehl. It honors Galien, the father of medical science and modern pharmacology. Prizes are awarded for products and agents that improve the human condition. The Prix Galien USA awards prizes for therapeutics, including Best Pharmaceutical Agent, Best Biotechnology Product, and Best Medical Technology approved by the FDA in the past five years. The Prix Galien is considered to be the industry’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize and is the highest accolade for pharmaceutical research and development.

It was a great honor for me to serve on the Galien Foundation Committee. The presentation is online.

2nd Annual National Health Disparities Elimination Summit

The 2nd Annual National Health Disparities Elimination SummitBy Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

On October 29, the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at UConn, in partnership with the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute, hosted the second National Health Disparities Elimination Summit here at UConn Health. The summit’s theme was “Living in America Today,” and its goal was bringing stakeholders together to provide important information and resources to eliminate health disparities.

This year’s summit took a holistic approach and focused on how different environments are creating or exacerbating health disparities. Discussions surrounded physical environments such as the Flint, MI water crisis; health care environment and the role of diversity in improving outcomes; and social environment including societal structural issues such as gun violence. Where people live matters! Health care providers, politicians, community leaders and individuals can all positively impact their environments, resulting in improved health outcomes in their communities.

The hours of planning and execution invested in this event were recognized by all the attendees, and I was told by several people how impressed they were by this year’s summit. I want to thank everyone for the work and the commitment to excellence.

Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students

Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority StudentsBy Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

I was honored to serve as the keynote speaker for the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Tampa, FL on November 10. ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for underrepresented minority students in STEM. The theme for the meeting was “Diverse Voices, Diverse Science: A Future of Excellence in STEM Research.” My lecture, “Regenerative Engineering: The Future of Tissue Regeneration” highlighted the increasing convergence between engineering, biology, and medicine. This meeting was packed with undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students, graduate students and postdoctoral scientists and faculty, program directors and administrators. Thanks to ABRCMS for inviting me to participate in this important conference.