Scaffolds to the Future


J. Paul Santerre, Professor & Director (2008-2013)

October 17, 2012

Even before he was appointed Director of the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering in 2008, Professor Paul Santerre had a long list of exceptional accomplishments under his belt. As Associate Dean, Research and Director of the Dental Research Institute (DRI) for the Faculty of Dentistry (2003-08), Santerre made it his business to represent the research interests of his home Faculty. This was well before he founded his own start-up company, Interface Biologics, Inc. (2001), which recently has been making headlines as it has just received FDA approval for applications involving biomedical polymers discovered in his research lab.

But to hear Santerre talk about it, his role is to facilitate the greatness he sees around him.

“The combination of brilliantly talented people with vision in a collaborative and resource intensive health care research environment has led to the success of IBBME today. One third of IBBME’s core faculty win national and international awards annually and it has the 2 nd highest biomedical engineering peer review publication activity in all North America,” Santerre states proudly.

Santerre’s legacies to IBBME amply demonstrate the kind of growth that solid infrastructure facilitates. Under his Directorship, Santerre signed a historic “Memorandum of Understanding” between IBBME and its three Faculties – Engineering, Medicine and Dentistry – a document that lays out and forges the Faculties’ commitment to fostering the growth of this uniquely collaborative research Institute.

Within the Institute, Santerre feels his greatest achievement has been the “mobilization of IBBME’s four research themes to lead major infrastructure initiatives, and to promote the outcome of these efforts.” This includes the recruitment of seven exceptional new core faculty members; seeing two NSERC CREATEs funded, with another two under review; the establishment of three commercialization ventres: the Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), Techna (in collaboration with UHN), and the Centre for Research in Advanced Neural Implant Applications (CRANIA) in collaboration with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute; and the expansion of IBBME’s PhD program with a clinical Concentration option.

“On a personal level,” Santerre adds, “my greatest research achievement was development of new biomaterial scaffolds for tissue engineering that are spinning off applications in breast tissue reconstruction, vascular grafts and periodontal tissues,” research that has been recognized with fellowships from the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Despite his long list of successes, Paul Santerre has an eye on the future. “Despite the International strength that we have in tissue engineering, we still have a long way to go in order to see the successful implementation of tissue repair and regeneration—all while the urgency of the need is enormous given the fact that the diseases of aging are now reaching critical levels and are becoming a tremendous burden on society’s resources. We do not have adequate engineered solutions to the problems or the management of these patients.”

But while conscious of the gaps in medicine, Santerre is well aware of the challenges – and opportunities – these bring. “The most exciting frontier right now is neuro-engineering. With advances in molecular imaging techniques we can now see things that were never previously possible, and it has opened up many new green pastures for our investigators. This is what led to the theme of IBBME’s 50 thAnniversary symposium.”

And, according to Santerre, IBBME is poised to take advantage of the opportunities the current climate offers. “I believe that we are now on the global radar as an International Centre of Excellence in BME, so we are in a position to forge International partnerships at the research and graduate training level.”

“IBBME now has all the right tools in its tool box: excellence, passionate staff and faculty, immense networks, and champion teams.”