IRE Receives a New NIH/R21 Research Grant

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

Institute for Regenerative Engineering faculty members Dr. Thanh Nguyen (PI) and I (Co-I) have received new funding from the NIH/NIBIB. This proposed project aims to study the science and technology which allow creating a biodegradable, highly efficient piezoelectric stimulator and integrating the stimulator with a biological chondrocyte-seeded cartilage graft to form a bionic self-stimulated cartilage tissue. We believe this bionic cartilage will be able to self-harvest mechanical impacts from joint forces, generating useful electricity to sufficiently stimulate and accelerate its own healing and regeneration process.

Congratulations to Dr. Nguyen on funding for this exciting project.

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.

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.

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.

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. Lifetime Research Award

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

I am pleased to announce Dr. James R. Gavin III is the recipient of the 2016 Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. Lifetime Research Award. This research award recognizes a lifelong dedication to the true science of medicine as a master clinician, incomparable researcher and teacher with the unique skills attributed to my vision.

Dr. Gavin is Clinical Professor of Medicine at both Emory University and Indiana University School of Medicine. He was president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta from 2002-2004. He served as senior scientific officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) from 1991-2002 and director of the HHMI-National Institutes of Health Research Scholars Program from 2000-2002. After graduating from Livingstone College in North Carolina in 1966 with a degree in chemistry, he earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Emory University in 1970 and his M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine in 1975.

Dr. Gavin represents the quintessential scientist, educator, trailblazer, and type of leader most people aspire to become. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute, I thank Dr. Gavin for his many efforts and resulting accomplishments.

The Meritorious Achievement Award

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

The Meritorious Achievement Award

On July 30, I was honored to be named the recipient of the Meritorious Achievement Award during the opening awards ceremony of the National Medical Association’s 2016 Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly in Los Angeles.

This achievement award is given for noted national and international achievement and prominence. In addition, this award recognizes individuals of national and international stature whose efforts significantly benefit health and medicine.

My sincere and humble thanks to the NMA for granting me this notable honor.

2016 Connecticut Medal of Technology

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

On May 24, I was very happy to receive the prestigious Connecticut Medal of Technology at the 41st Annual Meeting & Dinner of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE), at the University of New Haven. The Connecticut Medal of Technology is the State of Connecticut’s highest honor for technological achievement in fields crucial to Connecticut’s economic competitiveness.

It is wonderful to receive this recognition for the work I have been doing in Connecticut. Besides our work in science, we have started a number of successful companies here and have been able to reach back by working in STEM education in the state. I am particularly gratified that the state has recognized my work in making Bioscience Connecticut a reality. I wanted to thank those who nominated me and supported my nomination, including Provost Mun Choi here at the University of Connecticut. And, of course, thank you to my extended family, colleagues, and friends who have always supporting me and my vision over the many years.

2016 Connecticut Medal of Technology

2016 Connecticut Medal of Technology

2016 Connecticut Medal of Technology

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Laurencin Receives White House Honors

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

On May 19th, 2016 I was extremely honored to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barrack Obama at the White House. This marks the third time I have received White House honors. I was the recipient of the Presidential Faculty Fellow Award from President Bill Clinton for work bridging engineering and medicine, and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama.

Photos: National Science & Technology Medals Foundation, UConn Health, The National Academy of Inventors

In a press release issued by the White House, President Obama stated, “Science and technology are fundamental to solving some of our nation’s biggest challenges. The knowledge produced by these Americans today will carry our country’s legacy of innovation forward and continue to help countless others around the world. Their work is a testament to American ingenuity.”

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is America’s highest honor for technological achievement. I give thanks to my family, teachers, mentors, colleagues, and students for inspiring me each and every day. What has been accomplished on this journey is in large part due to them.

Since the announcement of my receiving the National Medal of Technology we have embarked on a number of new and exciting initiatives. These include the Hartford Engineering a Limb Project (HEAL), and the launch of our new Journal, Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine.

To watch the ceremony, visit The White House Official YouTube channel.

BME Senior Design Team

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

I am so proud to announce that my BME Senior Design Team which includes Dwight Meggie, Julian Rose, Alexandra Stowe, Nathan Eckhardt won the first place certificate for the 2016 Senior Design Project Award. The project entitled “Harnessing Healing: Mechanical Isolation of Adipose Derived Stem Cells for Clinical Applications” sought to evaluate a mechanical method to rapidly harvest adipose tissue and adipose derived stem cells that can be used within a patient to help regenerate the cartilage. Currently, the most prevalent method to isolate adipose derived stem cells is utilizing an enzyme, collagenase, to breakdown the extracellular matrix but this has limited clinical applications. Thus there is a need for a mechanical isolation method. Several isolation methods were tested to isolate stem cells using fresh adipose tissue from rats. This project has the potential to improve human health as it is aimed at regenerating deteriorated cartilage which affects a multitude of patients.

The senior design project is an extremely important part of the BME curriculum at UConn. Through the program, our students work with sponsors or faculty advisors as part of a project aimed at designing and fabricating a new system in order to solve a real world problem. Each year during Senior Design Day, each team is eligible to win prizes based on a judging panel. The winners are announced at the end of the Senior Design Day.

Julian, Dwight, Alexandra, and Nathan, great job!

Honored at Chinese Consulate in New York

Zhang Qiyue with Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

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

On March 17th, I was honored at a gala event at the Consulate-General of the Peoples’s Republic of China in New York City. The award was bestowed on me by Zhang Qiyue, Consul General of China in New York, to note my work fostering U.S.-China relations in the scientific community. Last year, I was elected as a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. I am the first foreign member from the United States to be elected in the field of biomaterials and one of the youngest foreign members to be elected in its history. I look forward to working with scientific community in China. Thanks to everyone at the Chinese Consulate for organizing the gala dinner.