CICATS Celebrates Excellence in Research

CICATS Celebrates Excellence in Research

CICATS Celebrates Excellence in Research Last month, the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) held its first annual “Celebration of Excellence in Research” for its 17 Core Interest Groups (CIGs).

CIGs were developed to promote collaborative, transdisciplinary research. The CIG concept clearly accommodates the goal of disease-agnostic research, allowing the spontaneous formation of new research enterprises. Investigators from all partnering institutions are encouraged to be a part of CIGs. Current CIG research activities focus on a range of basic, clinical, and translational initiatives on: aging, biomedical engineering, multidisciplinary obesity research, cancer prevention, mental health, cardiovascular diseases, drug discovery, correctional health research, e-health and m-health technologies, injury prevention, stroke and cerebrovascular diseases, occupational safety and health, personalized immunotherapy, musculoskeletal research, sickle cell disease, women’s cancer, and health disparities.

The event celebrated and showcased the work and success of each CIGs, providing an opportunity for faculty and community-based organizations to network for collaborative research projects. It also included brief overviews of research project by CIG researchers and poster displays.

This was a very happy occasion to celebrate our researchers and the remarkable growth they have achieved thus far and will continue to achieve. These programs would not have been possible and successful without the support of our faculty, partners, affiliates, administrators and most importantly, the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

The HEAL Project Discussion on “The Stan Simpson Show”

Dr. Cato Laurencin and Stan SimpsonLast month, Stan Simpson, host of “The Stan Simpson Show” on Fox CT, invited me to be a guest on his show for the second time. During the interview, I explained our current research initiative named “Hartford Engineering A Limb” (HEAL) at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering. The project’s goal is to regenerate a human knee in seven years and a whole limb in fifteen. The field of regenerative engineering is still in its infancy, and through the HEAL project, we are hoping to utilize this new approach to bring life-changing breakthroughs to patients. The interview can be seen on the web, please visit the following link:

Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH

Last month, I was attending the 111th meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. This was my last ACD meeting since I was elected as a member of ACD in 2013. In an effort to ensure that NIH senior management is getting the most rigorous and experienced guidance, the NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., created the ACD made up of academic and health care industry leaders. As a committee member, my duty was to make recommendations concerning program development, resource allocation, NIH administrative regulation and policy, and other specific or general aspects of NIH policy. The committee members also review and make recommendations on applications for grants and cooperative agreements for research and training for projects that show promise of making valuable contributions to human knowledge. It was truly an honor to serve as a member of the ACD. It has been a great pleasure working with Dr. Collins and all members of ACD.

Advisory Committee to the Director committee

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., with NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., with NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Unveiling HEAL


I was pleased to announce the launch of Hartford Engineering A Limb (HEAL) on Veterans Day at the Connecticut Science Center. The goal of this potentially revolutionary scientific project is to regenerate a new joint in 7 years and a limb in 15 years. Aimed at helping wounded warriors as well as others who have lost limbs or experienced nerve damage, HEAL is run by UConn Health’s Institute for Regenerative Engineering.

Unveiling HEALWe have teamed up with top regenerative engineers who are dedicated to advancing their fields and developing future therapies for patients living with musculoskeletal defects or limb injury or loss. Senior HEAL Team investigators include Drs Lakshmi Nair and Yusuf Khan of UConn Health, Dr. David M. Gardiner of the University of California Irvine, professors at Harvard University, Columbia University, and Sastra University in India. The HEAL project will be further supported by 10 dedicated research fellows and a collaborative team of scientists and clinicians in biomedical engineering, stem cell sciences, molecular biology, orthopaedic surgery, plastic surgery and rehabilitation medicine from across the UConn Health campus.

I thank everyone involved in the press conference for their phenomenal work organizing this event over the past weeks. I appreciate all the speakers who shared their expertise and insights on the HEAL project. I also thank the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, and the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus for their continuing support of our research programs.

India National Academy of Sciences

I am happy to announce that I have been elected a Foreign Fellow of the India National Academy of Sciences. I am one of only two Foreign Fellows elected this year, and the first from the University of Connecticut and UConn Health.

The citation reads “for his pioneering work in the field of material sciences.” I was recognized as a world leader in polymer-ceramic composites, and recognized for his contributions in tissue generation and bioengineering.

Election to the India National Academy of Sciences is a tremendous honor. I feel so fortunate to have had the support of all my colleagues, my students and the organizations I have worked with. My election is a tribute to their support.

The National Academy of Sciences in India was founded in 1930 and it is the oldest Science Academy in India. It is located in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. The main objective of the Academy was to provide a national forum for the publication of research work carried out by Indian scientists and to provide opportunities for exchange of views among them.

IRE Student Receives NIH Supplemental Grant to Promote Diversity

Paulos Mengsteab, Ph.D.I am pleased to announce Paulos Mengsteab, a graduate student in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering, has received funding from a NIH/NIAMS supplemental grant which will support his Ph.D. studies. This supplemental grant to our current NIH R01 grant, “A Translational Approach to Ligament Regeneration,” evaluates the efficacy of surface modulation of a previously established 3D braided biomimetic tissue-engineered scaffold.

The Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research Program supports the NIH’s efforts to diversify research fields. Specifically, it recruits individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, those with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program fosters improvements in the quality of educational environments, broaden perspectives in research priorities, and improve the nation’s capacity to address and eliminate health disparities.

Paulos graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2013. While studying for his degree, Paulos founded a student organization called ‘Step In’ which worked with the Columbia Public Schools in closing the educational achievement gap among races by encouraging underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged students, through applied learning modules, to participate in the STEM fields. Paulos was also selected to participate in the Ronald E. McNair Scholar’s Program and was awarded funding to conduct research under the supervision of Dr. Ahmed Sherif El-Gizawy’s. After graduating, he was awarded the NIH Post-Baccalaureate Education Program Fellowship at the University of Washington, where he conducted research in the Biomedical Engineering Department under the supervision of Dr. Doek-Ho Kim. His primary research project at University of Washington focused on primary cardiomyocytes contractile behavior in response to dynamic nanotopography surfaces. In Fall 2014, Paulos joined the Institute for Regenerative Engineering as a Ph.D. student enrolled in the Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Connecticut.

Wayne State University President Receives Laurencin Lifetime Research Award

M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State UniversityI am pleased to announce M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University, is the recipient of the 2015 Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., Lifetime Research Award. Dr. Wilson received his M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School and his Master of Science in epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health. Dr. Wilson is an accomplished researcher focused on glaucoma and blindness in West Africa, the Caribbean, and urban communities in the United States. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Ophthalmological Society, and the Glaucoma Research Society.

Dr. Wilson received the award during the opening ceremonies of the National Medical Association’s 113th Annual Convention and Scientific Assembly, held at Detroit’s Cobo Center. The Laurencin Lifetime Research Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated more than 20 years of consistent, long-lasting contributions to benefit African-Americans, reducing health disparities through recognized research and inquiry. Dr. Wilson’s extraordinary career has been dedicated to improving the health status of minority populations in his role as a master physician and surgeon.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute, I thank Dr. Wilson for his many efforts and resulting accomplishments.

2015 Gordon Research Conference

I had the honor to be invited to Girona, Spain where I gave the opening keynote speech for the 2015 Gordon Research Conference. This year’s theme was “Regenerative Engineering and Functional Materials Integration,” a new area our institute has pioneered. It featured multidisciplinary presentations by bioengineers, chemists, and clinical scientists on emerging topics in immunology and stem cells, as well as basic and translational aspects of biomaterials science. It was great seeing the extraordinary research being performed by researchers around the world. The conference was chaired by Professor Edward Botchwey of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech. Ed was one of my graduate students at Drexel who moved with me to be a professor at the University of Virginia. It’s always great seeing my students who are now noted professors in academia all over the world.

New Journal Features Convergence of Fields

Meet-the-Editors event at the 2015 Society for Biomaterials MeetingI am happy to announce that Springer Publishing has officially launched the international journal, Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine in partnership with the newly formed Regenerative Engineering Society. The new journal will cover the convergence of multiple fields including tissue generation, advanced materials science, stem cell research, the physical sciences, and developmental biology. The senior editorial team includes managing editor, Lakshmi S. Nair, MPhil, PhD, and assistant managing editor, Tao Jiang, PhD, MBA, both of the University of Connecticut; and news and views editor, Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, of Harvard University. Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine is currently seeking submissions. For information and online submission instructions, please visit the submissions page.

On April 16th, the journal hosted a Meet-the-Editors event at the 2015 Society for Biomaterials Meeting and Exhibition in Charlotte, NC. I am excited to be working with Springer and the editorial team on this new journal.

Bone Graft Substitutes and Bone Regenerative Engineering (2nd Edition): Our Newest Book

Bone Graft Substitutes and Bone Regenerative EngineeringThe Institute for Regenerative Engineering has published the landmark book Bone Graft Substitutes and Bone Regenerative Engineering. The book provides a well-rounded and articulate summary of the present status of using allogeneic, xenogenic, and synthetic bone graft substitutes to reconstruct bone tissues. To reflect on the importance of the concept of convergence, Bone Graft Substitutes and Bone Regenerative Engineering captures the excitement of the new field we call Regenerative Engineering. The chapters of the book are written by the leading researchers in academia, surgeons, industry leaders and regulatory specialists. We believe this new book, following the very successful first edition entitled Bone Graft Substitutes, will be of value to people who work in all fields involving bone. I thank Dr. Tao Jiang, my co-editor, for his time and effort in working with me. In addition, the publication of this book would be impossible without the assistance from numerous people at ASTM International. Finally, I also want to thank the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation for their tremendous support in all our efforts to define the new field of Regenerative Engineering.