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Wireless sensors help NICU babies get more hugs

SQI’s John Rogers’ soft, wireless sensors out-perform current technology 

A cross-disciplinary team co-lead by SQI faculty member and Center for Bioinspired Electronics (CBIE) director, Professor John A. Rogers has tackled a problem for babies in NICU units by creating clinical-grade, wireless, soft sensors. The sensors were tested alongside the current wired versions and were shown to provide data with the same level of accuracy. The wireless sensors even provide additional data that may be clinically useful such as blood pressure and oxygen levels. The results have been published in the journal Science.

It is important for doctors to monitor vital data like heart-rate and respiration. But until now, doing so required that the tiny patients are surrounded by a “rats-nest” of wires - making parent or nurse interactions daunting and complicated. This is important because there is already a clear body of evidence that skin-to-skin interactions are beneficial for babies, especially “premies”. By removing the wires, and providing easier contact, the outcomes of these tiny patients can be improved. T

he team has also designed the solution to help patients with fewer economic advantages: thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in April they will be rolling out systems in Zambia. The Northwestern research team included Dr. Amy Paller, Dr. Shuai (Steve) Xu, Dr. Aaron Hamvas and Dr Debra Weese-Mayer from the Feinberg School of Medicine, and Dr. Yongguang Huang from the McCormick School of Engineeringab.



Press | Northwestern, Science, Chicago Tribune, National Geographic


Jonathan Rivnay – 2019 Sloan Research Fellow

Recognizing unique potential to make substantial contributions to chemistry

SQI faculty member Jonathan Rivnay has been selected as a 2019 Sloan Research Fellow in Chemistry from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The Sloan Fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise in the fields of chemistry, computer science, neuroscience, ocean sciences, physics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, mathematics, and economics. 

Rivnay joined Northwestern and SQI in 2017 as an assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering.  Rivnay’s research interests include ionic-electronic coupling in polymeric materials which present new opportunities in application and functionality, with a particular focus on bioelectronic usage.  “My group harnesses polymeric materials as a means to bridge the biotic-abiotic gap.  Our polymer material can speak the language of electronics – electrons - and biology - ions/biomolecules” said Rivnay.

In 2019, only 126 researchers at 57 colleges and universities were recognized with the two-year $70,000 award.

Image to the left shows a polarized-microscope image of conductive, doped microfibers. Image courtesy of Mayra Celene Cortez Alcaraz, Rivnay Lab.


Press | Northwestern, McCormick


Lab-grown organs getting closer to reality

SQI professor Wertheim collaborates across Chicago to advance organ science

Dr. Jason Wertheim was recently featured in Crain’s Chicago Business for his research into growing new kidneys.  Dr. Wertheim is collaborating with multiple teams to advance the science including Dr. Zaida Pinto from Dr. Sam Stupp’s group, as well as Dr. Jeffrey Hubbell from the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.  The work receives significant support from a grant from the National Institutes of Health as well as a shared grant through the Chicago Biomedical Consortium. 

The results are impressive, but you shouldn’t place an order just yet.  Developing the right processes and measures is an important prerequisite to making progress.  “Science tends to be unpredictable,” says Wertheim “There's still a ways to go, and we can't really tell how far we are” from developing a functional kidney. “But if we can develop those benchmarks, that actually may give us a guide.”



Press | Crain's



Non-technical research summaries and an open website spread research results

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” It’s a question philosophers have debated for hundreds of years. Researchers may be interested in a related question: If a scientist publishes a result, but only experts understand the paper, how much knowledge has been produced? This is the challenge that two Northwestern graduate students have taken up. They founded Open Science DataBase (Open Science DB), a 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission to make federally funded research more accessible to the general public by providing easy-to-understand summaries of peer-reviewed publications. 

Open Science DB is the brainchild of graduate student Alexandra Edelbrock, a member of Samuel Stupp’s research group based at the Simpson Querrey Institute, and Dr. Suji Jeong, a Northwestern alum of John Kessler’s group in Neuroscience. Jeong and Edelbrock’s partnership began during a collaboration between their two labs. Their joint research focused on understanding the mechanisms behind spinal cord injuries and developing therapies to treat them. Outside of her lab work, Jeong wanted to find a way to help the general public overcome the paywall that blocked access to the peer reviewed scientific research which their tax dollars funded. The overarching goal was to take research articles and distill them down to short, easy-to-understand summaries the size of a conference style abstract. Jeong developed a collection of article summaries and reached out to Edelbrock to create a virtual version – that’s when Open Science DB was born.

Open Science DB is primarily driven by graduate student involvement. The research summaries are either written by Open Science DB staff (Edelbrock is Editor in Chief) or are supplied by the author of the original peer-reviewed publication. Open Science DB staff will often work with the authors to translate the key discoveries into language for a broad audience. “We wanted Open Science DB to solve two accessibility issues – the use of highly technical jargon and the physical paywall restriction blocking access to peer-reviewed journals. As researchers, we take our subscriptions for granted, but it’s rare for the general public to read articles that require an additional payment to download” says Edelbrock. Open Science DB currently contains over 100 summaries and is available to anyone over the internet.

Open Science DB saw a large uptick in support and article summaries following the March for Science in 2017. The non-profit had members present at the marches in Chicago, Seattle, and Washington DC. Open Science DB also saw a surge in likes and followers on their Facebook page. Participation has slowed somewhat since 2017 but is holding steady. Even though she plans to defend her thesis in November 2019, Edelbrock intends to stay involved.  “It’s really rewarding to work with an organization that shares what scientists are doing with the public and advocates for science. We needed this in 2017, and we’ll need it going forward too.” Learn more at www.opensciencedb.com.


Press | Open Science DataBase



Rogers group develops device to treat bladder problems

Belt-like implantable device uses light to address pain and incontinence

The Rogers Lab — along with collaborators at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign — has developed a soft, implantable device to help people with bladder problems bypass the need for medication or electronic stimulators. 

During initial testing on rats, the team implanted a soft, stretchy belt-like device around the animal’s bladder. As the bladder fills and empties, the belt expands and contracts. The researchers also injected opsins into the animals’ bladders. The opsins are carried by a virus that binds to nerve cells in the bladder, making those cells sensitive to light signals. This allowed the researchers to use optogenetics to activate those cells.

Using bluetooth communication to signal an external hand-held device, the scientists can read information in real time and, using a simple algorithm, detect when the bladder is full, when the animal has emptied its bladder and when bladder emptying is occurring too frequently. In such cases, the external device sends a signal that activates micro-LEDs on the bladder band device, and the lights then shine on sensory neurons in the bladder. This reduces the activity of the sensory neurons and restores normal bladder function.

“We’re excited about these results,” said Rogers, who hopes to develop non-surgical techniques for implanting the device in humans using a catheter. “This example brings together the key elements of an autonomous, implantable system that can operate in synchrony with the body to improve health: a precision biophysical sensor of organ activity; a noninvasive means to modulate that activity; a soft, battery-free module for wireless communication and control; and data analytics algorithms for closed-loop operation.”


Press | Northwestern


John Rogers receieves 2019 Benjamin Franklin Award

CBIE Director honored for pioneering work on flexible electronic systems

Northwestern University’s John A. Rogers has received the 2019 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Materials Engineering “for pioneering the engineering of flexible and stretchable electronic systems for e-health and exploratory neuroscience”. These systems can non-invasively integrate with the soft tissue surfaces of the human body to provide diverse, clinically relevant diagnostic and therapeutic modes of use. Rogers’ interdisciplinary research combines expertise from nearly every traditional field of study in science and engineering, with outcomes that have changed the way that people think about industrial, consumer and biomedical electronic devices.

In the past two years alone, the Rogers group has produced bioresorbable stimulators for the accelerated neuroregeneration of damaged peripheral nerves, non-invasive sensors of flow through ventricular shunts for treating hydrocephalus, skin-integrated microfluidic systems for analysis of biomarkers in sweat and wireless, battery-free devices for personalized measurement of exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun.

Rogers will officially accept his award on April 11, 2019 at a formal ceremony in Philadelphia.


Press | Northwestern




Public-private network to research biomaterials and tissue regeneration

The Simpson Querrey Institute (SQI) has joined the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI)|BioFabUSA, a public-private network leading manufacturers, universities, nonprofit organizations and the federal government looking to develop scalable manufacturing processes for engineered tissues and organs.

"The Simpson Querrey Institute (home to the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberley Querrey Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine) has been focused on the development of biomaterials and technologies for regenerative medicine for nearly 20 years. We have a great deal to offer to the efforts at ARMI|BioFabUSA and hope to use the connections and energy to help identify future research needs," said SQI Director Sam Stupp.

The ARMI initiative and its BioFabUSA program will work to integrate and organize the fragmented collection of industry practices and domestic capabilities in tissue biofabrication technology to better position the United States relative to global competition. ARMI|BioFabUSA will also focus on accelerating regenerative tissue research and creating state-of-the-art manufacturing innovations in biomaterial and cell processing for critical Department of Defense (DoD) needs.

"It’s an exciting time for me as a transplant surgeon and biomedical scientist to see the technology evolve," said SQI member Dr. Jason Wertheim. His research group uses cell biology and bioengineering to develop liver, kidney and blood vessel tissue as a cutting-edge solution to organ shortage. "BioFabUSA is bringing together a diverse set of partners to address and solve challenging hurdles in translational regenerative medicine — and I know that I and my colleagues at SQI and Northwestern can contribute to finding those answers."


Press | Northwestern


SQI Member Guillermo Ameer Named AAAS Fellow

Faculty to be honored at annual association meeting in February

Along with two other members of the Northwestern University faculty, SQI member Guillermo Ameer has been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Ameer will be honored for his contributions to the fields of biomaterials science, tissue engineering and regenerative engineering, particularly for pioneering the development and applications of citrate-based biomaterials, at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in February.

Founded in 1848, AAAS—the world’s largest general scientific society--includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. It publishes the journal Science, and maintains a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement and more.

Press | Northwestern



Stupp and Hsu labs tackle growth factor-free spinal fusion

$3.1 million NIH grant to support materials breakthrough

Bone is the second-most transplanted tissue in the United States, with between 1.6 and 2 million surgeries performed each year. More than 500,000 of these procedures involve spine fusions, which often use autograft bone — bone taken from the patient — and it may be unavailable for various reasons. So far, researchers have not discovered a universally safe and effective substitute for autograft bone. SQI director Samuel Stupp and SQI members Erin and Wellington Hsu are out to solve this critical problem.

In a new study conducted in partnership with Northwestern University's Dr. Stuart Stock and Prof. Malcom Snead at the University of Southern California, the researchers will facilitate the repair and regeneration of bone by enhancing the bone-forming capacity of a patient's own stem cells and native growth factors. Stupp, Hsu, and Hsu plan to develop and validate a nanofiber scaffold that can be used either on its own or for the delivery of bone marrow stromal cells to elicit successful spine fusion without the need for recombinant growth factors. If successful, the five-year study will result in a highly effective strategy to regenerate bone that eliminates the need for recombinant proteins, reducing the risks associated with spinal fusion and other orthopaedic procedures that require bone healing.

Press | Northwestern



Gianneschi Lab unravels Black Widow’s silk secrets

Breakthrough will aid in creation of lightweight, super-strong materials

Materials scientists have long been fascinated by black widow spiders, which are known to produce an array of silks with exceptional properties. The steel-like strength of their webs is rooted in their unique structures, and the specific combination of amino acids that comprise the silk fibers. Until recently, however, the process by which the spiders transform proteins into those fibers was poorly understood, and attempts to replicate the silk using synthetics were unsuccessful. “The knowledge gap was literally in the middle,” SQI faculty member Nathan C. Gianneschi said. “What we didn’t understand completely is what goes on at the nanoscale in the silk glands or the spinning duct — the storage, transformation and transportation process involved in proteins becoming fibers.”

Thanks to a research partnership with San Diego State University and funding from the Department of Defense, the mystery surrounding these processes is finally becoming clear. In collaboration with Professors Lucas Parent (Northwestern University), David Onofrei (SDSU), and Greg Holland (SDSU), Gianneschi authored a paper titled "Hierarchical Spidroin Micellar Nanoparticles as the Fundamental Precursors of Spider Silks,” which was published Oct. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper challenged existing theories which posited that spider silk proteins await the spinning process as nano-size amphiphilic spherical micelles (clusters of water soluble and non-soluble molecules) before being funneled through the spider’s spinning apparatus to form silk fibers. Instead, Gianneschi et al. announced a “modified micelles theory”, which concludes that spider silk proteins do not start out as simple spherical micelles, but instead as complex, compound micelles. “We now know that black widow spider silks are spun from hierarchical nano-assemblies (200 to 500 nanometers in diameter) of proteins stored in the spider’s abdomen, rather than from a random solution of individual proteins or from simple spherical particles,” said Holland.

With this breakthrough, scientists have a new path to creating lightweight, super-strong synthetic materials, and the potential practical applications are nearly limitless. In an interview with Northwestern Now, Gianneschi said, “One cannot overstate the potential impact on materials and engineering if we can synthetically replicate this natural process to produce artificial fibers at scale.”

Publication | PNAS

Press | Northwestern, McCormick


John Rogers unveils first biodegradable implant

Bioresorbable electronic device speeds nerve regeneration

Simpson Querrey Institute ­member and Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics director John A. Rogers announced the successful development of the first example of a bioresorbable electronic medicine: an implantable, biodegradable wireless device that speeds nerve regeneration and improves the healing of damaged nerves.

Working in collaboration with investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Rogers group harnessed their expertise in the design and manufacturing of biodegradable medical technology to create a thin, flexible device that wraps around an injured nerve and delivers electrical pulses at selected time points over multiple days, before dissolving harmlessly within the body. By varying the composition and thickness of the materials in the device, Rogers and colleagues can control the precise number of days it remains functional. The device is powered and controlled wirelessly by a transmitter outside the body that acts much like a cellphone-charging mat.

While the device has not yet been tested in humans, experiments using rats with injured sciatic nerves showed that any electrical stimulation was better than none at all at helping them recover muscle mass and muscle strength. In addition, the more days of electrical stimulation the rats received, the more quickly and thoroughly they recovered nerve signaling and muscle strength. The ability of the device to degrade in the body took the place of a second surgery to remove a non-biodegradable device, thereby eliminating additional risk to patients. No adverse biological effects from the device and its reabsorption were found. 

“This notion of transient electronic devices has been a topic of deep interest in my group for nearly 10 years -- a grand quest in materials science, in a sense,” Rogers said.  “We are excited because we now have the pieces -- the materials, the devices, the fabrication approaches, the system-level engineering concepts -- to exploit these concepts in ways that could have relevance to grand challenges in human health.”

Publication | Nature Medicine

Press | Northwestern




Read about amazing dynamic bio-inspired materials

They can transform shape, move, and change properties reversibly

Soft structures in nature such as protein assemblies can organize reversibly into functional and often hierarchical architectures through noncovalent interactions. Molecularly encoding this dynamic capability in synthetic materials has remained an elusive goal. “Reversible Self-Assembly of Superstructured Networks” published in Science, reports on bio-inspired materials with dynamic properties developed in Samuel Stupp’s lab.  The hydrogels of peptide-DNA conjugates or peptides organize into superstructures of intertwined filaments that disassemble upon the addition of molecules or changes in charge density. Experiments and simulations demonstrate that this response requires large-scale spatial redistribution of molecules directed by strong noncovalent interactions among them. Simulations performed by Erik Luijten’s group also suggest that the chemically reversible structures can only occur within a limited range of supramolecular cohesive energies. Mechanical properties of the hydrogels change reversibly as superstructures form and disappear, as does the phenotype of neural cells in contact with these materials.

The experimental work was funded primarily by the US Department of Energy and the computational work by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Additional support for the synthesis and characterization of peptide-DNA conjugates was provided by the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science  (CBES), an Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science. Biological experiments were funded by the Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine at the Simpson Querrey Institute.

Publication | Science

Press | NorthwesternC&EN




John A. Rogers Awarded 2018 MRS Medal

Materials Research Society honors pioneering bio-integrated electronics research

John A. Rogers will receive the 2018 MRS Medal from the Materials Research Society.  The MRS Medal recognizes an exceptional achievement in materials research in the past ten years focusing on a major advance or cluster of closely related advances in any materials-related field of research. The impact of this research on the progress of the relevant materials field is a primary consideration in making the award.  The 2018 award, recognizes Rogers’ “pioneering contributions to materials for diverse classes of bio-integrated electronic systems.” The Awards Ceremony will be held at the 2018 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston.  Rogers will also present a general-interest talk describing his research and achievements to the assembled members of the MRS as part of the convention’s technical program.

“We are very honored to receive this award,” Rogers said. “It recognizes a broad, collective body of interdisciplinary work performed by teams of amazing students and wonderful senior collaborators over the years.”

John A. Rogers is the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurological Surgery (and by courtesy Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, and Chemistry).  He also directs the Center for Bio-Intergrated Electronics within the Simpson Querrey Institute.


About the MRS Medal



SQI Core Receives 2018 Outstanding Core Facility Award

Peptide Synthesis Core Honored by the Office for Research

SQI’s Peptide Synthesis Core received the 2018 Outstanding Core Facility Award, sponsored by Northwestern University’s Office for Research.  Only three core facilities at Northwestern received this designation.  Outstanding Cores rank in the top 10% of all cores across the university, based on metrics such as service, outreach, education, financial management, facility operations, and feedback obtained from the annual user satisfaction survey.

Winners in the Outstanding Core Facility category will receive a commemorative plaque and special recognition at the upcoming Core Facilities Colloquium and Awards Luncheon.   The award also provides a $2,000 voucher for discretionary use related to the operation of the facility.

“We last received this prize in 2015, and we’ve improved dramatically since then. It’s good to see our efforts recognized,” said core director Mark Karver.  While he does not yet have concrete plans for how the funds will be used, Karver spoke with enthusiasm about the impact of this award. “We have recently added new technical staff in the Peptide Core.  With this distinction and award funding, we can continue to expand our user base, increase our highly successful outreach activities, and tackle more difficult peptides and projects.”



Shah Lab Offers New Possibilities for Regeneration

3D printed materials potential “game changers” for cancer therapy & bone grafts

Pioneering Oncofertility Field Offers Hope for Children Battling Cancer

Press | Northwestern


New, Printable and Flexible Ceramic Bone Grafts Could be a Game Changer

Press | NSF


3D Printed Biomaterial Promotes Tissue Regeneration

Publication | IOP Science



Wellington & Erin Hsu Reflect on Research, Societal Impact

Wellington honored for contributions to medicine in Asian Pacific Heritage Month

In a recent interview with ABC 7, Dr. Wellington Hsu described his lifelong fascination with math, science, and human physiology. Combined with a desire to improve human health, that interest ultimately led him to a career as a spine surgeon. “As I learned more about the field of orthopaedic surgery, I realized there were so many other sub-specialties and ways that I could make an impact on someone’s life.”

Discussing their collaborative research and recent acknowledgement by Northwestern as Mentors of the Year, Erin Hsu said, “It’s a lot of fun to be accomplish something like this, and to do something like this together.”


Press | ABC News





Recognized for stewardship, cooperation, and leadership in chemistry research

Liam Palmer, Director of Research at the Simpson Querrey Institute, was awarded the 2017 Omar Farha Award for Research Leadership by the Department of Chemistry. Palmer is also a Research Associate Professor of Chemistry. The prize, bestowed in recognition of Palmer’s outstanding leadership abilities, acknowledges his strengths as an administrator and researcher in numerous interdisciplinary, multi-investigator collaborations, his mentorship of graduate and undergraduate researchers, and his improvements to policies and practices concerning data integrity and lab safety. He is a key member of the SQI leadership team and plays a pivotal role in the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES). Palmer has influenced the physical and technological expansion of the institute, the growth of its core facilities, and the development of research collaborations among SQI faculty.

According to Samuel Stupp, “Liam has served the Northwestern research community tremendously in all of his roles. I am extremely proud of his contributions to Chemistry, the Stupp Lab, CBES, and SQI, and I look forward to many more years of our great scientific partnership.”




NSF recognizes Rivnay with prestigious Career Award

Prize will support research, scientific literacy/community engagement initiatives

Jonathan Rivnay's NSF CAREER Award, "Understanding the Role of Structure on Ionic/Electronic Properties in Polymeric Mixed Conductors," will focus on studies of structure and transport in materials relevant for bioelectronics. He also aims to enhance science communication through community engagement, exploring the effect of the duration of outreach events on the development of researchers as teachers/mentors.


Press | Northwestern



Harnessing Huntington's Disease to Fight Cancer

Thaxton & Peter labs test new therapeutic RNAs inspired by Huntington's disease

A collaboration between Simpson Querrey Institute resident faculty member C. Shad Thaxton, MD, PhD, associate professor of urology, and Marcus Peter, PhD, the Tom D. Spies Professor of Cancer Metabolism at the Feinberg School of Medicine, has led to a potentially new approach to treat cancer. Together, Thaxton and Peter were intrigued by the question of why individuals with Huntington's disease have significantly lower rates of cancer than the general population, and whether or not the mechanism which protects them could be used to prevent and treat cancer in patients without Huntington's.

"Huntington's disease is one of many neurodegenerative diseases caused by trinucleotide-specifically CAG-repeats in the human genome," Thaxton explained. "In Huntington's disease, it has been shown that the longer the CAG repeat in the huntingtin gene, the lower the cancer risk in the individual. It turns out that these repeat sequences in the genome are leading to the production of short RNAs that may be therapeutic for cancer."

By identifying specific siRNA sequences based upon the CAG repeat sequences, the Peter lab was able to demonstrate that these short RNA duplexes can be used to potently induce cancer cell death.

Delivering RNAs in in vivo studies is challenging, and this is where expertise developed in the Thaxton lab was required. "Marcus needed a group with experience in formulating and stabilizing these nucleic acids so they could be delivered in an in vivo study. So, we teamed up. We had collaborated with Marcus before on a similar project, using the templated lipoprotein nanoparticle platform that my group developed to deliver siRNAs in an ovarian cancer disease model. In that case, the particles worked very nicely in both in vitro and in vivo studies, and so he came to us again to ask if we could formulate these new CAG repeat sequences in our targeted, nanoparticle form."

In vivo studies using the siRNA sequences identified by the Peter lab-again using an ovarian cancer model-proved successful in the treatment of cancer in mice. In addition to reducing tumor growth, there were no measured toxic side effects of the treatment. Findings from the study were published on February 12 in EMBO Reports.

Speculating about the future impact of the collaboration and the research, Thaxton noted there are several other collaborators with whom the lab is currently working on similar projects, and many others that have approached the group about testing other therapeutic RNAs as a result of the work with the Peter lab. Collaborative work of this kind allows the Thaxton Lab to continue to refine and perfect systemic siRNA delivery strategies based upon the templated lipoprotein nanoparticle platform. Thaxton said, "Long term, it might bring in new resources so that we can continue to improve upon our current strategies and to develop new platforms and technologies for delivering therapeutic nucleic acids."

Thaxton's laboratory is located at the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology.


Press | Northwestern , EMBO Reports




SQI Staff Leadership Appointments

New Assistant Director and Director of Research Strategy and Development

Erin L. Hsu, Ph.D., research associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine (FSM), will serve as Assistant Director of the Simpson Querrey Institute. In her new role, Hsu will work closely with SQI Director Samuel I. Stupp, on strategic initiatives that will influence the Institute's future development. In particular, she will help develop new programs designed to foster connections between Feinberg faculty, key collaborators at SQI, and other faculty based on the Evanston campus.

Hsu's background is in molecular toxicology. Her laboratory focuses on developing novel biomaterials for bone regeneration. The approaches and technologies she utilizes include stem cell-based therapies, nanotechnology-based synthetic matrices, and osteoinductive 3D-printable natural and synthetic materials. Hsu has forged strong collaborative relationships with SQI faculty, including Samuel Stupp, Ramille Shah, and Wellington Hsu. Erin holds a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in molecular toxicology from UCLA. She has been a faculty member at FSM since 2008 and a SQI resident since 2014.

SQI also welcomes Mark Kleinschmidt, Ph.D., as the first Director of Research Strategy and Development. In this new position, Mark will work with the SQI Director on fundraising and to develop strategic internal and external partnerships. He will also play a leading role in developing and executing SQI's strategy for research and programming activities.

Mark brings a diverse background to SQI. He grew up on an organic dairy farm in Nebraska and received his bachelor's degree in physics from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where his thesis research focused on transmission electron microscopy study of in-situ crystal growth. Mark worked in the private sector at Avery Dennison for 14 years performing in a wide range of roles including Marketing, Standards-setting, Regulatory Affairs, Research and Product Development Leadership, Product Management, Marketing Communications, Technical Services, and Strategy Development. While working at Avery Dennison, Mark pursued an MBA at Kellogg with majors in Marketing and Management & Strategy.




Scott Lab Develops New Hydrogel for Drug Delivery

Groundbreaking formulation minimizes previously common side effects

Using nanocarriers to deliver drugs and diagnostic agents to specific areas of the body is hardly new in the world of nanomedicine. However, despite the significant promise of the technology, it has its challenges.

Controlled, sustained delivery is advantageous for treating many chronic disorders, but this is difficult to achieve with nanomaterials without inducing undesirable local inflammation," said SQI member Evan Scott. "Instead, nanomaterials are typically administered as multiple separate injections or as a transfusion that can take longer than an hour. It would be great if physicians could give one injection, which continuously released nanomaterials over a controlled period of time.

Thanks to a grant from the NSF and NIH, Nicholas Karabin of the Scott Lab has developed a new nanocarrier formulation which makes this single injection approach possible. The hydrogel serves as both scaffold and drug delivery vehicle by re-assembling itself into the nanocarriers, which then transport the therapeutic agent to the desired location. Because all of the materials is used up in the delivery of the drug or diagnostic agent, there is none left at the injection site to cause inflammation or discomfort later on.

The research, which was published in Nature Communications , holds great promise for the future. Potential applications include enabling single-administration vaccines that do not require boosters as well as a new way to deliver chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or drugs that facilitate wound healing.


Press | Nature Communications , Northwestern



Rogers group and Loreal team up to monitor UV exposure

The world's smallest wearable electronic device can be worn on a fingernail

Collaborating with Loreal, John Rogers' lab developed the world's smallest wearable device. The "UV Sense" is worn on the fingernail to measure UV from sun exposure and it was recognized as one of the six coolest gadgets exhibited at the 2018 Consumer Electronic Show.

The reusable electronic sensor-which can record and store up to three months' worth of data-communicates with a smartphone app which tracks the level of UV related risk and suggests better habits, including when to get out of the sun and re-apply sunblock. Loreal plans to make the sensor, which is battery-less and can be worn for up to two weeks before a new adhesive is needed, available for consumer purchase in summer 2018.



Press | Northwestern , Today, USA Today , Engadget , Digital Trends




SQI Core Facilities Growing

ANTEC and the PS Core gain new equipment and staff

ANTEC received funding from the Office for Research and acquired a High Power Expanded Plasma Cleaner from Harrick Plasma. At ANTEC, the Plasma Cleaner is used for sterilization of biomaterials intended for in vitro and in vivo use, as well as for glass, metal and polymer substrate surface cleaning and modification. In addition, ANTEC received Office for Research funding which will allow for acquisition of accessories for the popular Cytation3 Automatic Imager and Plate reader. These accessories, a 40x magnification objective and a 96 well plate washer, will enhance the Cytation3 imaging and plate reading capabilities.

Job Opening: Assistant Core Scientist position now available in the Peptide Synthesis Core. For more information and to apply online please go to posting #31592 here


Press | PS Core Job Posting PDF


New material shows promise for regenerative medicine

First synthetic material capable of dynamic signaling announced

A new study published in Nature Communications highlights groundbreaking materials research with the potential to transform therapies for patients with traumatic or degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, arthritis, and spinal cord injuries. Samuel I. Stupp and post-doctoral researchers Ronit Freeman, Nicholas Stephanopoulos, and Zaida Alvarez-Pinto, developed the first synthetic material capable of dynamically signaling to cells to trigger desired behaviors, such as proliferation and differentiation. This new platform opens possibilities for directing stem cells in order to facilitate regeneration, and for understanding new ways to control cell fate and function.

While this process is currently only done in vitro with the vision of then transplanting cells, Stupp said in the future it might be possible to perform this process in vivo. The stem cells would be implanted in the clinic, encapsulated in the type of material described in the new work, via an injection and targeted to a particular spot. Then, soluble molecules designed to activate and direct the transplanted cells in particular ways would be given to the patient to trigger the desired processes.

People would love to have cell therapies that utilize stem cells derived from their own bodies to regenerate tissue," said Stupp, the director of the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology and Board of Trustees Professor at Northwestern University. "In principle, this will eventually be possible, but one needs procedures that are effective at expanding and differentiating cells in order to do so. Our technology does that."


Press | Nature, Northwestern, Feinberg


Dounia Dems Joins SQI

2017 Fulbright Scholar from ESPCI ParisTech

SQI welcomes Fulbright Scholar Dounia Dems, a PhD candidate from the Laboratory of Condensed Matter Chemistry of Paris, who will work in the Stupp Group through June 2017. Dems will collaborate with Drs. Ronit Freeman and Zaida Alvarez Pinto to develop a bioactive scaffold based on collagen, peptide amphiphiles, and silica nanoparticles for peripheral nerve regeneration. This is Dems' second period of residence at SQI; she visited in 2014 and worked on a project to develop DNA-peptide amphiphile hybrid materials.

Since 2015, Dems has conducted research under Dr. Florance Babonneau, focusing on multifunctional particles for the design of innovating biomaterials. She holds master's degrees in materials chemistry from Pierre and Marie Curie University and in physics, chemistry, and biology from The City of Paris Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution.

The Fulbright Program provides competitive, merit-based exchange scholarships for international students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists, and artists. United States Senator J. William Fulbright founded the program in 1946.


Wearable devices blur line between biology & electronics

John Rogers' flexible electronics allow health monitoring from the inside out

When a team of neurologists approached John Rogers about using his work on flexible electronic systems to develop a new generation of health monitoring devices, a light bulb went off.

We had never thought about that. The idea of taking rigid, integrated circuit technology and reformulating it from the bottom up to allow it to softly wrap around the surface of the brain, meld onto the skin, or form around a beating heart - nobody was doing that. That's where we saw an opportunity.

The stability of his devices and their intimate interface with the human body has opened up new monitoring capabilities and increases the accuracy of medical data. Unlike traditional hospital instruments, Rogers' small, flexible devices can harvest energy from organs, wirelessly monitor biological processes, and even automatically treat certain medical conditions. Lurie Children's Hospital is currently testing his most recent invention, a wireless, battery free, temporary "tattoo" used to monitor the vital signs of premature infants in a gentler way than has previously been possible.

Rogers' work doesn't just have implications for medicine and materials science, but for the larger relationship between human beings and technology. As he puts it, "Moving beyond rigid, point-contact electrodes [is] blurring the boundaries between biology and electronics."


Press | Northwestern, Rachael Ray Show, PDF Version


Science Magazine Editor Visits Northwestern

Spoke of the changing scientific publishing landscape

November 10, 2016: On the Evanston campus Phillip Szuromi presented an overview of how papers get published at Science. The Science editors not only direct the peer review process but also stay informed about their fields and identify emerging fields. He commented on the changing scientific publishing landscape and recapped some recent initiatives to uphold high standards of author and referee conduct.

As part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a nonprofit organization, the goal of Science Magazine is to ensure that the impact of research published in the journal has benefit to society. The journal also tries to advance a general appreciation for the value of thinking scientifically about the many challenges our world now faces.


Press | Northwestern




Cutting-Edge Research that will Benefit Society

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."


SQI researchers break new ground in bone regeneration

Shah TEAM Lab and Hsu Lab develop 3D printable ink for bone implants

3D printed bone implants are one step closer to becoming a reality, thanks to the groundbreaking research of the Shah TEAM Lab and the Hsu Lab at the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology.

Earlier this month, Dr. Ramille Shah, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Surgery, and Biomedical Engineering and Adam E. Jakus, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology announced the successful development of a new type of ink that can be used to print "hyper-elastic" bone replacements. The biomaterial is a mix of hydroxyapatite and a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer that is used in many medical applications, including sutures. Initial animal tests look promising; after just four weeks, an implant placed in a monkey's skull had fully healed, fusing with the existing bone, and those placed in mice were rapidly integrated by the rest of the body, allowing blood vessels and cells to grow on and through them.

The material's composition makes the synthetic bone easily customizable and quick and inexpensive to produce, which could significantly impact the treatment of bone defects in children and in people living in developing nations around the world. "It's purely synthetic, very cheap and very easy to make," Adam Jakus said, speaking to Reuters. "It can be packaged, shipped and stored very nicely." According to Dr. Shah, "The sky's the limit for this material's applications."


Publication| Science Magazine

Press | Science Magazine, Scientific American, Reuters, McCormick



Leadership and Teamwork on Two Creative Projects

Mark McClendon, Research Associate and Translational Research Officer, and Maura Walsh, Administrative Assistant and Assistant to the Director, received 2016 Service Excellence Awards for their leading roles in designing and producing two creative projects that highlight research conducted at SQI.
They designed and installed the "SQI Gallery" which puts scientific images on display in the institute's main office. They also collaborated on a creative design for SQI's new brochure. This was not a simple pamphlet type brochure, and it was a challenging project. Mark gathered dozens of amazing images for the project and he personally created several images we used in the brochure - including the cover image. Maura designed the creative brochure layout and worked with a printer who could produce the unique enclosure design. Both gathered information, drafted text, and met a very tight production schedule. For demonstrating leadership and effective teamwork on these creative projects Mark and Maura were honored at the Service Excellence Awards Luncheon held in July.



Press | NU HR Newsletter, Northwestern




Samuel Stupp Presented with Prestigious Chemistry Award

For Work on Bioactive Supramolecular Materials in Regenerative Medicine

Samuel I. Stupp, Director of the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology, has been honored with the Soft Matter and Biophysical Chemistry Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Stupp's research focuses on the design of supramolecular materials that can signal cells and be used in novel therapies for regenerative medicine. Progress has led to the development of materials that mimic the natural structures that surround cells in the human body and activate the necessary signals to initiate the growth of tissues and organs. This award recognizes Stupp's fundamental contributions to the science of supramolecular soft matter and demonstrating its value to control biophysical interactions with mammalian cells.

"I am absolutely flattered and delighted to receive this honor from the Royal Society of Chemistry's Faraday Division recognizing our work on bioactive supramolecular soft matter" said Professor Stupp. "The development of these soft biomaterials is extremely important to future therapies in regenerative medicine and many other disease therapies involving delivery of macromolecular drugs such as proteins and antibodies. The research has required convergence of chemistry, biology, materials science, and medicine."

The Soft Matter and Biophysical Chemistry Award honors outstanding and innovative research in soft condensed matter and the application of physico-chemical techniques to biological problems. As a result of this award, Stupp will receive a medal during the award symposium and undertake a lecture tour in the U.K.

The Royal Society of Chemistry, based in the United Kingdom, is the largest organization in Europe dedicated to advancing the chemical sciences.


Press | Northwestern, RSC


Stupp inducted into AIMBE College of Fellows

Recognized for developing supramolecular biomaterials for regenerative medicine

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has honored Samuel Stupp for his leading role in developing functional materials using supramolecular chemistry. Stupp has created a large family of molecules known as peptide amphiphiles, that self-assemble into nanofibers that can mimic extracellular matrices and display very high concentrations of biological signals.

Major achievements associated with this platform include the regeneration of spinal cord axons in after injury, the unprecedented selective and rapid differentiation of neural stem cells into neurons, angiogenesis in muscle with bioactive signals leading to reperfusion of the ischemic hind limb, and functional improvement of heart muscle after myocardial infarction. The body of work also includes bone spinal fusion with a low dose of growth factors and formation of enamel in embryonic incisor teeth. Materials for bone regeneration are currently in development for clinical trials. Composed of only amino acids and fatty acids, these materials are broken down in vivo into highly biocompatible components. Alternatively, bioactivity can also be introduced into the nanostructures, including functionalization small molecule drugs, organometallic complexes for imaging with MRI, and fluorophores for detection in tissues.

Stupp has also demonstrated the possibility of creating materials in which the bioactive filaments can be integrated with cells and organized over macroscopic distances, mimicking the organization of tissues such as the brain, the spinal cord, skeletal muscle, and the heart. Stupp's work on bioactive soft matter has inspired academic as well as industrial development of conceptually similar materials for regenerative medicine.

Stupp will be elected to fellow status on April 4, 2016, as part of AIMBE's 25th Annual Meeting at the National Academy of Sciences Great Hall in Washington, D.C. In total, 155 scientists will make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2016.


Press | Northwestern, Feinberg


Stupp Creates Novel Covalent/Noncovalent Hybrid Polymer

Hybrid regeneration could inspire new materials for drug delivery, energy storage

In the January 29, 2016 issue of Science, Samuel I. Stupp and George C. Schatz reported on a novel hybrid polymer based on two distinct compartments within a single nanofiber. These two compartments, one that is a covalent and one that is supramolecular, can be reversibly separated and subsequently reconstituted. Computer simulations of the system showed the supramolecular and covalent compartments are integrated through reversible beta-sheet hydrogen bonds.

This type of hybrid structure could inspire new types of functional and adaptive materials that have the potential be regenerated in situ. For example, these studies may suggest ways to design materials with the ability to self-repair or for catalysis, energy storage, or drug delivery.


Article | Science

Press | Northwestern


Evan Scott Receives $1.5 Million NIH New Innovator Award

New immunotherapies to treat cardiovascular disease

SQI resident member, Evan Scott, received a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These awards support exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have great potential for unusually high impact. Scott, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, will receive $1.5 million over five years to support his project, Development of Combination Immunotherapies for Atherosclerotic Inflammation.

"I am extremely honored to have received such a prestigious award that promotes novel high-risk, high-reward biomedical research," Scott said. "It is especially encouraging to have the support of the NIH as my lab explores unique nanotechnology-based immunotherapies for the treatment of heart disease."

The New Innovator Award Program, founded in 2007, is unlike traditional NIH funding mechanisms. The emphasis is on funding creative new investigators at the early career stage and innovative ideas are essential. Although preliminary data is not required, applicants must compete against faculty from all disciplines and proposals must make it through multiple rounds of rigorous peer review.

Press | Northwestern, NIH


Bioelectronics Pioneer will Join SQI

Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics will expand SQI research

John A. Rogers, who designs innovative bio-integrated electronic devices, will join NU as the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Medicine. Rogers will join the SQI resident faculty group in September 2016.

His Chicago-based research laboratory and the Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics he will launch will be part of SQI. Rogers' arrival will expand the scope of research at the Simpson Querrey Institute and create many synergistic opportunities with the institute's scientific and clinical partners worldwide.


Press | Northwestern



Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center

Largest total gift from a single donor supports biomedical research programs

In recognition of their additional gift of $92 million, the new biomedical research building on the Chicago campus will bear the name Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center. The couple's previous donations totaling $25 million endowed the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology (SQI).

The new Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center will be directly connected to the Lurie Medical Research Center where SQI is located. When construction is completed, it will provide new space for SQI members and Feinberg School of Medicine researchers who are working to find cures for cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and genetic diseases. Biomedical researchers from Lurie Children's Hospital, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will also have a presence in the new building.



Press | Northwestern, Feinberg, Chicago Tribune, Crain's, McCormick

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