Honoring Dr. Eric N. James, a Former Institute of Regenerative Engineering Graduate Student

Eric James
Dr. Eric James and Dr. Lakshmi Nair

It is with profound sadness that we inform you of the passing of Dr. Eric Nathaniel James, Assistant Professor of the University of Hartford, and a graduate of the Skeletal Biology and Regeneration Area of Concentration in the Biomedical Science Ph.D. program at UConn Health.

Dr. James earned his Bachelors of Science from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He then joined the Professional Science Master’s Program at the University of Connecticut, followed by the Graduate Certificate Program at UConn Health, under the mentorship of Dr. Marja Hurley. He later went on to join the Institute for Regenerative Engineering as a graduate student in 2010. Dr. James displayed a strong passion for teaching and pursued a career in research combining genetics and regenerative engineering. In collaboration with Dr. Anne Delany’s laboratory, he focused his thesis work on nanostructured scaffolds for microRNA-mediated bone regeneration. He graduated with his Ph.D. in 2015, and performed a post-doctoral fellowship at Tufts University. During that time, he also served as an adjunct professor of Newbury College and Quinnipiac University. In 2018, Dr. James joined the University of Hartford as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Biomedical Engineering.

Dr. James was a kind, thoughtful and beloved member of our group, who had a tremendous passion for teaching and research. He touched the lives of many through his sustained commitment to mentoring, elevating others, and paying it forward. Throughout his career, he was particularly involved in mentoring at risk underrepresented minority students. Dr. James’ commitment to helping others is his everlasting legacy. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

By Dr. Lakshmi Nair

IRE Annual Retreat

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

On Friday, July 7, the Institute for Regenerative Engineering held its Annual Lab Retreat at Homewood Suites in Farmington. The retreat featured a mix of large-group and small-group activities, along with time for individual reflection. Conversations were thought-provoking, including a discussion of the work planned for 2018. Thank you to those who helped make the retreat a success.

IRE Annual Retreat

IRE Annual Retreat

First Regenerative Engineering Science Café

1st Regenerative Engineering Science CaféBy Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Sponsored by the Kavli Foundation and CICATS, the first Regenerative Engineering Science Cafe took place on July 6th at “Butchers and Bakers” in Farmington. It featured 6 exciting leaders in the field who discussed their work and visions in an interactive fashion. Over 40 students, faculty, researchers, engineers, clinicians, and staff attended the event. Regenerative Engineering is a new field which focuses on the convergence of advanced material sciences, stem cell science, physics, developmental biology and clinical translation for solving next-generation challenges in tissue regeneration.

I thank everyone at CICATS and IRE for their hard work to put together this amazing event.

1st Regenerative Engineering Science Café

1st Regenerative Engineering Science Café


Mentorship Science Café at UConn Health

Mentorship Science Café at UConn Health

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

On June 30th, CICATS kicked off this year’s Science Café Series with a focus of mentorship. Over 35 students, faculty, researchers, and staff attended the event in UConn Health’s Academic Lobby. Through engaging talks from invited speakers, the mentorship Science Café was an exciting and productive event.

CICATS strives to educate and nurture established, emerging and future scientists through its Science Cafe Series which is a Kavli BRAIN Event. Each month, the Science Cafe focuses on a specific topic. As a result of our previous success with “Kavli Coffee Hours”, the Kavli Foundation renewed and increased its support.

In addition to the Kavli Foundation, we thank our faculty, partners, affiliates, and the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus for their continuing support.

As the CEO of CICATS, I thank everyone at CICATS for their hard work putting together the CICATS Science Café series.

For more information about upcoming Science Café events, please visit: http://cicats.uconn.edu/science-cafes/

Mentorship Science Café at UConn HealthMentorship Science Café at UConn Health


The Kavli Foundation Increases Investment in CICATS

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

I am happy to announce The Kavli Foundation has renewed and increased its investment in the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS). The Foundation supports CICATS Science Cafes, principally through the Kavli BRAIN Coffee Hour Program. These programs are led by CICATS’ Core Interest Groups and are designed to engage a broad range of scientists and generate interactive discussions. Spurred by CICATS’ initial success, the grant from The Kavli Foundation ensures the cafes will continue and expand, pursuing advanced scientific knowledge and research, especially Convergence Research. I want to thank The Kavli Foundation for its unwavering support of our programs here at UConn Health.

Regenerative Engineering Society

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

I am delighted to officially announce the launch of Regenerative Engineering Society. The mission of the Regenerative Engineering Society is to promote and advance regenerative engineering, a field defined as the Convergence of Advanced Materials Sciences, Stem Cell Sciences, Physics, Developmental Biology and Clinical Translation for the regeneration of complex tissues and organ systems. With the new society we want to bundle our expertise on a national level. This will not only allow us to enhance our capabilities in the U.S. but this will also contribute towards enhancing our visibility internationally.

The founding leadership of the Regenerative Engineering Society are: Dr. Cato Laurencin from University of Connecticut (Chair), Dr. Lakshmi Nair from UConn Health (Secretary), Dr. Yusuf Khan from University of Connecticut (Treasurer), Dr. Ali Khademhousseini from MIT (Board), Dr. Kevin Lo from UConn Health (Board), Dr. David Gardiner from University of California, Irvine (Board), and Dr. Guillermo Ameer from Northwestern University (Board).

For more information, please visit the society’s website at http://www.aiche.org/resociety

Visiting the 301 Military Hospital in Beijing China

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

On May 31st, I had the honor of receiving a personal tour of the prestigious 301 Military Hospital in Beijing. The 301 Military Hospital is a direct subsidiary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Logistics Department. It is also the largest general hospital under the auspices of the PLA. Its mission includes assuring the health of PLA and China's leaders. The hospital has 125 clinical, medical and technological departments, and 4000 patient beds. The tour allowed me to see some of the key areas within the hospital. It is a very impressive building, and I was pleased I had the opportunity to tour this first class health facility.

Thank you to Professor Xiaobing Fu (Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering), Professor Peifu Tang (Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery), and medical staff members of the 301 Hospital for hosting my visit.

301 Military Hospital Beijing, China 301 Military Hospital Beijing, China

Featured Fellow at the Institute for Regenerative Engineering: Dr. Meng Deng

Biomaterials CongressDr. Meng DengDr. Meng Deng received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 2004 from the very prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 2010 from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. He completed his doctoral thesis in biomaterials and tissue engineering under my mentorship at the University of Virginia. His Ph.D. project was focused on the design and development of novel biomaterials and matrices for bone regeneration based on a highly versatile platform of biocompatible polyphosphazene blends. He also worked on developing mechanically competent bioresorbable nanostructured three-dimensional biomimetic scaffolds for accelerated bone healing. Meng was an extraordinary Ph.D. Student and received He was the recipient of the Special Recognition Award for Academic Achievement from the Department of Chemical Engineering, and the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award for the Department of Chemical Engineering from the University of Virginia. In 2008, the People’s Republic China awarded Dr. Deng the China Government Award for Outstanding Students Abroad. After completing his Ph.D. in 2010 he has been a Postdoctoral Fellow working on regenerative engineering of complex musculoskeletal tissues using integrated graft systems under my guidance in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering at the University of Connecticut Health Center. His research interests include biomaterials, drug delivery, nanotechnology, and regenerative engineering.

Dr. Meng Deng and Dr. Cato LaurencinDr. Deng is an outstanding researcher in the institute. He has published more than 20 research articles in high impact journals like Biomaterials, Advanced Functional Materials, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. His research work has been highlighted on journal covers several times. He was also recognized for his research work. For instance, in 2010, he received STAR award from the Society for Biomaterials in Seattle, WA. Last month, he won a Young Scientist Award from the World Biomaterials Congress 2012 and traveled to Chengdu China to receive this great honor. As a mentor for Dr. Deng, I am so proud when I see he is being recognized for his great achievements.

Honored to Work with the Wellcome Trust

Professor Maria Marlow of the Department of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham with Dr. Cato LaurencinLast month, I had the honor to be asked to travel to London as part of an international review panel for the Wellcome Trust. The Trust is a worldwide charitable organization dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It was great to be able to see the extraordinary research being performed by scientists in the UK.

During the meeting, I was reunited with Professor Maria Marlow of the Department of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham. Maria was one of my first postdoctoral fellows, joining my research group soon after we formed it at M.I.T. in the early 1990s. It is always a great pleasure to see my fellows who are now noted professors in academia all over the world.

FDA Commissioner Health Disparities Lectureship

FDA Commissioner Health Disparities LectureshipAs many of you know, one of my missions is to help reduce or even eliminate the health disparities of underserved populations in the United States. Health disparities represent a major public health emergency in our country and eliminating them is a major challenge.

During my term on the National Science Board of the FDA, I advocated for the establishment of an Office of Minority Health for the FDA. I am proud that Congress moved forward with this initiative and established the Office of Minority Health. On its first anniversary, the FDA invited me back to provide an address on ways in which race, culture and ethnicitiy should be considered in adopting regulatory policies and actions. I gave my talk last month as part of the first “FDA Commissioner Health Disparities Lectureship,” and I was grateful to share the podium with Professor George King from Harvard. I applaud the leadership of the FDA, especially Dr. Michelle Yeboah (Director of the Office) , and the leadership of HHS, especially Dr. Nadine Gracia (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health) for their work in the elimination of Health Disparities.