The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine held its 2021 Scientific Retreat March 9, 10, and 11, 2021.  Due to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Retreat was virtual with all programs presented via Zoom.

The participation and contributions of the guests and external collaborators – along with McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty and trainees – provided for insightful topics for discussion.  This year’s program committee, chaired by Bryan Brown, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering with secondary appointments in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, designed an exciting program.

Program Highlights

The Director’s State of the Institute Address/Retreat Kickoff was presented by McGowan Institute Director William Wagner, PhD, Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering, and Chemical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Wagner’s presentation was followed by Keynote Speaker David Brindley, PhD.  Dr. Brindley is the Managing Partner, Biolacuna; Chief Operating Officer, Rational Vaccines, Inc.; Principal, Thiel Capital LLC; and Senior Research Fellow, Healthcare Translation, University of Oxford.  Dr. Brindley’s presentation was entitled “A Decade of Regenerative Medicine: Never Look Backwards or You’ll Fall Down the Stairs.”

The Retreat included numerous general presentations and trainee events/networking sessions throughout the 3-day event focused on these program areas:  Cell and Gene Therapy; Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials; Medical Devices and Computational Modeling.  The Retreat program also included 15 presentations addressing a great cross-section of scientific topics given by McGowan Institute affiliated faculty and 23 invited researchers from other institutions and agencies who are not formally affiliated with the McGowan Institute (in alphabetical order):

  • Howard Aizenstein, MD, PhD, Professor, Departments of Geriatric Psychiatry, Bioengineering— Panel Discussion Member, Training Grants and Trainee Success:  Bioengineering in Psychiatry T32.
  • Gary An, MD, FACS, Professor, Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont—Managing Biological Heterogeneity: Integrating Mechanistic Simulation and Machine Learning for Therapeutic Control Discovery.
  • Jonathan Chen, MD, Chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia— Companion Session: FDA Pediatric Device Consortium Innovation Forum—Pediatric Heart Valve Prostheses: Addressing Unmet Needs.
  • Martijn Cox, PhD, Chief Technology Officer, Xeltis— Companion Session: FDA Pediatric Device Consortium Innovation Forum—Pediatric Prosthetic Heart Valve Trials in the US.
  • Diann DeCenzo, Grant Administrator, Department of Bioengineering—Panel Discussion Member, Training Grants and Trainee Success: Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine T32.
  • April Dukes, PhD, Faculty and Future Faculty Program Director, Engineering Education Resource Center, Swanson School of Engineering—Workshop—Communicating with Your Mentor: How to Articulate What You Need.
  • Marc Giulianotti, PhD, Program Director, International Space Station Laboratory—ISSNL’s Vision for Accelerating Life Science Research in Microgravity.
  • Ana Gorelova, PhD, Science Writer and Media Relations Manager, UPMC—Health Science Communications: Communicating Medical Research to the Media and Public.
  • Anjali Gupta, PhD, MBA, Business Development Life Science Lead In-Space Research & Manufacturing, Axiom Space, Inc.—Humanity’s Next Chapter: Axiom Station as a Platform for Discovery and Innovation.
  • Michael Hufford, PhD, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of LyGenesis, Inc.—LyGenesis: Crossing the Chasm between Academic Discovery and Clinical Stage Biotech Company.
  • Tamer Ibrahim, PhD, Professor, Department of Bioengineering— Panel Discussion Member, Training Grants and Trainee Success:  Bioengineering in Psychiatry T32.
  • Jeremy Kimmel, PhD, Vice President, New Technology, ALung Technologies, Inc.—ALung Technologies: Challenges and Opportunities for Medical Device Commercialization.
  • Katrina Knight, PhD, Magee-Womens Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Obstetrics Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh—Pore Collapse and Mesh Wrinkling: A Pathway to Mesh Complications In Vivo.
  • Scott McNamee, PhD, Special Assistant, Material Engineering, FDA— Companion Session: FDA Pediatric Device Consortium Innovation Forum—Materials Regulations for Pediatric Heart Valves.
  • Julie Myers-Irvin, PhD, Grants Developer, Swanson School of Engineering—Introduction to Grant Writing—the Basic Dos and Don’ts of Proposal Preparation.
  • Ryan Orizondo, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh—Design and Hemocompatibility Optimization of a Long-Term Artificial Lung.
  • Arun Sharma, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, Cedar-Sinai Medical Center—The Use of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells for Enabling Therapeutic Applications.
  • Cherie Stabler, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida; Chair-Elect, TERMIS—Engineering Bioactive Materials for Enhancing Cell-Based Treatments for Type 1 Diabetes.
  • Narendra Vyavahare, PhD, Professor, Department of Bioengineering, Clemson University— Companion Session: FDA Pediatric Device Consortium Innovation Forum—Preclinical Development of a Novel Heart Valve Prosthesis for Pediatrics.
  • Nicole Wagner, PhD, Chief Executive Officer LAMDA Vision—Protein Based Artificial Retina for Restoring Vision
  • Savio Woo, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Department of Bioengineering—Panel Discussion Member, Training Grants and Trainee Success: Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine T32.
  • Seth Young, PhD, Psychological Services Clinician, University of Pittsburgh Wellness Center—Roundtable Discussion: Persevering Through a Pandemic.

Poster Session

The poster session was effective in introducing the focus of the Retreat and interests of the faculty and the guests.  McGowan Institute faculty member Andrew Duncan, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology, Division of Experimental Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, and his committee organized the session and judged the posters. The winners of the poster session were:

Cellular and Genetic Therapy:

1st – Yingqiao Wang, Raghav Garg, Jane E. Hartung, Adam Z. Goad, Dipna Patel, Kyoungin Kang, Flavia Vitale, Michael S. Gold, Yury Gogotsi, and Tzahi Cohen-Karni. Remote nongenetic optical modulation of cellular electrical activity using two-dimensional Ti3C2 MXene.

2nd – Meghan Mooring, K Yao, S Liu, Y Liu, and D Yimlamai. Cyr61 coordinates liver fibrosis through monocyte and macrophage recruitment and polarization.

3rd – Hannah Fox and Elizabeth Wayne. Developing methods to assess the exosome crosstalk between maternal and fetal cells in normal pregnancy and preeclampsia.

Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials:

1st – Kelsey Hall, Arthi Shridhar, Alvin Liu, and Stephen Badylak. Effects of anti-bacterial coated extracellular matrix bioscaffolds on immunomodulation and mobilization of progenitor cells for volumetric muscle loss treatment.

2nd – Dorota Jazwinska and Ioannis Zervantonakis. Tumor-mesothelial assay to study ovarian cancer clearance dynamics.

3rd – Piyumi Wijesekara, Ying Liu, Weitao Wang, Elizabeth K. Johnston, Rebecca E. Taylor, and Xi Ren. Accessing and assessing the cell-surface glycocalyx using DNA origami.

Computational Modeling and Medical Devices:

1st – Constance M. Robbins, Kuanren Qian, Yongjie Jessica Zhang, and Jana M. Kainerstorfer. Combined mechanical and optical simulation of the effect of compression on breast-tumor mimicking software phantoms.

2nd – Daniel San Roman, Yingqiao Wang, Raghav Garg, Marissa Behun, Bryan Brown, Stephen Badylak, and Tzahi Cohen-Karni. Three-dimensional graphene microelectrode arrays fordetection of wound healing biomarkers.

3rd – Ronald Fortunato, Juan Cebral, Anne Robertson, and Spandan Maiti. Using in-vivo morphological measurements of cerebral aneurysm blebs to predict aneurysm rupture risk.

The poster session prizes for each category were sponsored by sciVelo:

First place: $200
Second place: $125
Third place: $75

The winner of the early registration drawing is Maddie Cramer, Badylak Lab ($50).

See the full Retreat Program here.

A special thank you is extended to all who made this year’s Retreat a success!