Dr. Laurencin Develops New Classification System for Regenerative Cell-Based Therapies

Doctors at UConn Health have developed the first classification system for regenerative cell-based therapies designed to stratify therapies based on scientific evidence and potential for harm. Today, there are concerns regarding the clinical safety and efficacy of cell-based therapies throughout the scientific community and within public discourse. The unregulated U.S. stem cell market has been widely reported as it offers potentially harmful therapies to patients without FDA approval. Currently, there are no regenerative cell-based therapies approved by the FDA, although high demand for such treatments is ongoing.

In light of these concerns, the current climate has generated demand for a systematic method to assess potential therapies. Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, CEO of The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering at UConn Health, has created a new classification system for cell-based therapies. The objective was to create a strategy that will benefit patients, encourage regulatory efforts, and further inform the scientific community.

“The rapidly expanding direct-to-consumer marketplace allows for public consumption of unregulated treatments, so we identified an opportunity to enhance regulation and ensure greater public health,” says Laurencin.

The new system will aid in categorizing proposed interventions to determine suitability for immediate clinical use or therapies that require further investigational studies prior to clinical use. Utilization of this system will result in increased regulation and widespread standardization, which in turn decreases patient health and financial risks associated with unregulated treatments.

To learn more about the new classification system, view the newly published article here.

The CT Convergence Institute’s Own Leila Daneshmandi Presents at Digital Health CT’s Inaugural Demo Day

Leila Daneshmandi

 

The Digital Health CT accelerator is a partnership among Hartford HealthCare, Trinity College, and UConn’s School of Business. The program provides startups the opportunity to work alongside health care providers, research institutions and investors to scale and accelerate their healthcare innovations. This MedTech Accelerator which is focused on Digital Health is designed to attract medical and healthcare technology companies to Hartford, and to expand economic development.

During an event on February 7th, ten healthcare startups presented their medical technology innovations that offer unique solutions for some of medicine’s greatest challenges. Among the presenters was Leila Daneshmandi, the co-founder of a cancer battling biotech company called Encapsulate, as well as a current Graduate Student of The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. Encapsulate offers the ability to replicate a patient’s cancerous tissue outside of the body, allowing oncologists to pinpoint the most effective medications to combat them. The innovation has the potential to speed delivery of lifesaving treatments, spare patients from ineffective medication, and save money for insurance companies. The startup has been awarded the Technology in Space Prize by the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory and Boeing.

On behalf of the CT Convergence Institute, we would like to congratulate Leila and the entire Encapsulate team. We are excited to see where this momentum will take them!

REM Alumni Wins Best Poster Presentation Award at the Emerging Researchers National Conference

REM Student at ERN Conference

 

The Connecticut Convergence Institute is proud to announce that Liahna Gonda-King, of the REM program won the “Best Poster Presentation Award” at the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM that took place in Washington D.C. last week. Liahna participated in the REM program of summer 2019 and is currently a high school teacher.

Liahna’s work entitled “Enhancing The Porosity of Sintered Microsphere Scaffold Systems in situ” focused on combining microsphere made from low and fast degrading polymers within the same construct as an approach to enhance the porosity of sintered microsphere scaffold systems in situ for more bone ingrowth. She shows that combining these microspheres could rapidly enhance the porosity of sintered microsphere scaffold systems while maintaining adequate mechanical properties and neutral pH levels.

The Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program aims to mentor students from diverse backgrounds to prepare them for careers in STEM-related disciplines. The program recruits high school students, undergraduate students, and teachers in professional development to provide them with skills including communications, scientific writing, and collaboration, while providing a high quality research experience.

Dr. Laurencin Provides the Henry A. Hill Lecture in Cambridge, MA

On February 13th, Dr. Laurencin provided the Henry Hill Lecture which took place at the joint meeting of the Northeast Region of National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers and Northeast Section of the American Chemical Society. The event was held at Pfizer in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The meeting featured a NESACES Board Meeting, followed by dinner and the presentations of the Henry A. Hill award and lecture. The Award for Outstanding Service went to James E. Phillips, while the lecture was facilitated by Dr. Cato T. Laurencin. The title of his presentation was “Regenerative Engineering: A Convergence Approach for Grand Challenges”.

Henry A. Hill Lecture- Dr. Henry Aaron Hill, the renowned chemist was a former Chairman of the American Chemical Society Northeast Section and the first African American President of the American Chemical Society. Dr. Hill’s outstanding contributions to chemistry, particularly industrial chemistry, and to the professional welfare of chemists are legendary. Dr. Hill’s first concern and interest was always in his fellow humans, and this was the driving force behind all that he did both in the chemical community and the world at large. In recognition of his many outstanding achievements NOBCChE identifies an outstanding Scientist or Engineer to be designated as the Henry A. Hill Distinguished Lecturer.

Dr. Laurencin is the First American to Win the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences

UNESCO

 

 

This past weekend Dr. Cato T. Laurencin received the 2019 UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, becoming the first American to earn this prestigious award. The ceremony took place during the Africa Union Heads of States Summit located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Prize is awarded to a maximum of three laureates who have made significant efforts through scientific research towards improving the quality of human life. Dr. Laurencin was formally selected by the UNESCO Director-General for his fundamental contributions in the field of regenerative engineering, a field he has pioneered. He is known worldwide as a leader in biomaterials, nanotechnology, stem cell science, drug delivery systems, and regenerative engineering.

During Dr. Laurencin’s acceptance remarks, he stated “I am proud, humbled and invigorated to receive the only International Prize in Science given by the continent of Africa. As the first person from the African Diaspora to receive this award, I am re-dedicated to expanding the new field I have founded of Regenerative Engineering, creating new solutions for the world.”

At the University of Connecticut, Dr. Laurencin is the University Professor, the eighth to be designated by the school in its over 135 year history. He is Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering; the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery; and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering.

In 2016, Dr. Laurencin received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor bestowed in America for technological achievement, presented by the President of the United States. He received the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science “for signal contributions to the advancement of science in the United States.” In addition, he has also received the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Award and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Grant Award.

Dr. Laurencin is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the first person to win the oldest honors of both the National Academy of Engineering (the Simon Ramo Founders Award), and the National Academy of Medicine (the Walsh McDermott Medal). He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Internationally, he is an elected fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, and the World Academy of Sciences, as well as an Academician and elected member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Kevin Lo and REM Students Attend Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM

ERN Conference

 

Dr. Kevin Lo and REM students attended the annual Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Washington D.C. this past weekend. The conference is for undergraduate and graduate students who participate in programs funded by the NSF HRD Unit, including underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities.

The objectives of the conference are to help undergraduate and graduate students to enhance their science communication skills and to better understand how to prepare for science careers in a global workforce. The 2-1/2 day conference includes student poster and oral presentations.

About the REM Students- The Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program aims to mentor students from diverse backgrounds to prepare them for careers in STEM-related disciplines. The program recruits high school students, undergraduate students, and teachers in professional development to provide them with skills including communications, scientific writing, and collaboration, while providing a high quality research experience.

Each summer, participants in the REM program are welcomed at UConn Health for research training. Participants learn the basic aspects of research including research problem identification, experimental design, and execution. Our laboratories have researchers at all levels (post-docs, grad students, undergraduate and faculty members) so there is an opportunity to learn from a variety of scientists.

The CT Convergence Institute Supports Go Red Day

Go Red Day

 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women. It claims more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined. Heart disease and stroke can affect a woman at any age. In fact, new research shows heart attacks are on the rise in younger women.

The members of the Connecticut Convergence Institute wear red to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and support the American Heart Association.

On the first Friday of every February, which is designated as American Heart Month, the nation comes together, igniting a wave of red from coast to coast. From landmarks to news anchors and neighborhoods to online communities; this annual groundswell unites millions of people for a common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Laurencin Selected as One of the Top 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America

The CT Convergence Institute is proud to announce that our CEO, Dr. Cato Laurencin, was selected as one of the top 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America by Cell Press. Cell Press is a leading publisher of cutting-edge biomedical and physical science research and reviews. They publish over 50 scientific journals across the life, physical, earth, and health sciences. Among the list are 75 investigators that range from Assistant Professors to Professors. He is the only Professor from UConn to make the list.

View the full article

Congratulations Dr. Laurencin!