Major Research Initiative: Cell, Molecular, and Tissue Therapeutics
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Members of the this research initiative engineer cells, tissues or macromolecules as therapeutic agents to treat disease.

The discipline of bioengineering has driven the development of biomaterials, cell based and drug-device combination therapeutics, and the the field of pharmaceutics has been the traditional domain of the important field of drug delivery. More recently, the disciplines are rapidly converging to provide synergistic feedback driving them both forward. Biomedical engineering approaches contribute components of instrumentation, systems modeling, materials and recombinant molecular bioengineering, and device design. Bioengineering techniques facilitate more complex drug delivery profiles (e.g., complex pulsatile drug kinetics, and triggered delivery), as well as dual capabilities such as combined imaging and drug targeting and combination medical devices. Contributing to the evolution of this truly multidisciplinary endeavor are a major advances in the fields of cell based therapeutics that will require sophisticated expertise in biomaterials, transport and molecular therapeutics to drive these technologies into the clinic and market.

Utah enjoys a strong history of success in both pharmaceutics and bioengineering. This provides a firm foundation for working at the interface of both academic programs with shared investigator grants, shared students and thematic training ‘tracks’ for students in aspects of therapeutics development and deployment. Extramural research funding for these efforts has consistently been impressive (nearly 100 PI-years of NIH R01 funding between the two departments). Several University Distinguished Professors are cross-appointed (Andrade, Kopecek and Kim); several graduate courses in drug delivery and biomaterials are dual listed, several investigators share labs (e.g. Grainger, Tresco, Kiser, Hlady, and Stewart), students and equipment. Additionally, this partnering has helped facilitate translation of basic progress into clinical applications and commercial technologies. Several spin-out companies and licensed technologies from these efforts are successful, visible examples of bioengineering innovation in drug delivery (Sentrx Surgical, Inc. Glycosan Biosystems, Inc. and Watson Pharmaceuticals, Macromed, Sarcos, and International Partnership for Microbicides).

The Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery in Pharmaceutics offers diverse, established drug delivery core facilities. Bioengineering’s Keck Center for Tissue Engineering complements this with cell and tissue-based research resources. Biomaterials, device and new drug formulation characterization in vitro and in vivo proceed in these shared laboratories. Tissue imaging (animal and human), targeting and intracellular tracking are supported through shared Bioengineering-Pharmaceutics-Radiology partnerships. Collaborations with the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Center for Scientific Computing and Imaging provide access to experts and relevant facilities as well. Systems modeling (for drug distribution/toxicity) and surgical device innovation proceed in partnerships with clinical departments. Core user facilities in the School of Medicine (e.g., Genomics) and Engineering (nanotechnology and fabrication) also actively support our efforts.