SQI featured at NU leadership symposium
According to founding director Samuel Stupp, the Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science, Chemistry, Medicine, and Biomedical Engineering, the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology (SQI) was created to do nothing less than revolutionize regenerative medicine.
Speaking to an audience at Northwestern University's 2016 Leadership Symposium, he explained, "We wanted to expand biomedical engineering beyond thinking about traditional medical devices to the nanoscale or molecular level...to generate new fields of science." By reaching out to colleagues in the basic sciences, engineering, and medicine and inviting them to form interdisciplinary teams, SQI pioneered a new approach to addressing big questions not just in regenerative medicine, but also in medical technology and in energy sciences. This model has since been emulated around the world, driving new innovations aimed at solving society's most pressing problems.
The freedom to take risks, the opportunity to collaborate, and the focus on practical application in the service of human health and wellness has drawn some of the best minds in a host of fields to SQI. In conjunction with Stupp, a panel of the Simpson Querrey Institute's esteemed researchers spoke passionately about their work and their ties to the Institute and Northwestern University.
"At SQI, there's a real focus on interdisciplinary research and collaboration, as well as translation from the lab to a clinical setting--For me, it's about having an impact on people, on their quality of life," said Ramille Shah, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Surgery, and Biomedical Engineering, as she described her ongoing work in the development of 3D printing compatible biomaterials. John Rogers, the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Medicine and the founding director of the new Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics, echoed the importance of purposeful research designed to improve human life. Calling SQI a "nexus of leaders and experts", he joked, "I had planned to go to California, but obviously, that didn't happen, mainly because I saw a better opportunity here at Northwestern and SQI. I was attracted by the uniqueness of the environment, the focus on interdisciplinary bioscience...and the immediacy of funding to address real-world problems.
Originally interested in developing improved surgical techniques and medical devices for addressing vascular problems, Guillermo Ameer, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery, has expanded his research interests to include targeted cancer therapies and bone regeneration as a result of his work at SQI. "The ability to collaborate with surgeons has been a highlight and pivotal to furthering the practical applications of my work," he said. Dr. Jason Wertheim, Assistant Professor of Surgery agreed, stressing the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration in his work on improving organ function at the cellular level and developing synthetic organs to address the drastically unmet need for organ replacement surgery. He also applauded SQI's welcoming atmosphere, saying, "I came because of open doors-Mentorship was easy to find and people are eager to collaborate."
For Dr. Shad Thaxton, Associate Professor of Urology, SQI's open doors were both the reason he joined the Institute and the reason he stays. "Sam gave me the space to open my lab, and I've never left. I caught the nanotech bug early. In addition to focusing on diseases pertinent to Urology, I'd always been interested in working on therapies for heart disease. Now, I'm working on ways to synthesize the molecules that carry good cholesterol throughout the body, and we're finding applications in heart disease and cancer."
In his closing remarks, Professor Stupp stressed the importance of public awareness and continued funding for SQI's groundbreaking research. "Volunteers like you are crucial to getting information out about what we're doing and enabling us to recruit the best faculty, fund research projects, and expand lab space. We don't know what the future will bring, but [we know] the Simpson Querrey Institute will continue to be at the forefront of important developments in regenerative medicine."