Professors Michael Sefton and Molly Shoichet Inducted into the Order of Canada
University Professors Michael Sefton and Molly Shoichet have been named Officers of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s most prestigious recognitions. The new appointees were announced last week by Governor General Julie Payette. Both Sefton and Shoichet are faculty members in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and professors in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME).
"Both Professors Michael Sefton and Molly Shoichet are working to undo some of the most devastating diseases of our time using innovative bioengineering approaches. Their research is widely recognized and has helped raise the international standing of Canadian science,"says Brenda Andrews, University Professor and director of the Donnelly Centre. "On behalf of the Donnelly Centre, I extend my warmest congratulations to both on these richly deserved honours."
Sefton has made significant contributions to research advances in biomaterials, biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine. He was one of the first to combine living cells with polymers, effectively launching the field now called tissue engineering. More recently, his lab has created biomaterials that actively promote the growth of blood vessels. By producing drug-like activity without any drugs or cells included within the material, these materials open a new world of possibilities for applications such as wound healing and the development of lab-grown tissues.
A leader in his professional community, Sefton served as president of the U.S. Society for Biomaterials in 2005 and has spearheaded several programs to advance the field, including the Toronto Tissue Engineering Initiative. He has worked with leading clinicians worldwide to advance research on health issues such as cancer and diabetes. From 1999 to 2005, Sefton was director of U of T’s IBBME, leading its development into one of the top institutes of its kind in North America. He currently serves as executive director of Medicine by Design, a U of T initiative that is accelerating discoveries in regenerative medicine to improve treatments for conditions such as heart failure, diabetes and stroke.
Sefton has received many distinguished awards in engineering and biomedicine, including the U.S. Society for Biomaterials Founders Award, the European Society for Biomaterials International Award, the Killam Prize in Engineering, the Engineers Canada Gold Medal, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society and the Terumo Global Science Prize. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an international member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine.
As the Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering, Molly Shoichet is pursuing solutions to a critical issue in medicine: treating damage to nerve tissues. Shoichet and her team design and implement novel strategies to promote tissue regeneration after traumatic spinal cord injury and stroke. Her lab is known for its use of materials called hydrogels, which surround and protect stem cells when they are injected in the body. These hydrogels help stem cells survive and integrate into tissues, including tissue damaged by stroke, macular degeneration or other diseases.
Shoichet has published more than 575 papers, patents and abstracts on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. She is the only person to be elected a fellow of all three of Canada’s National Academies and is a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
In November 2017, Shoichet was named Ontario’s first Chief Scientist, with a mandate to advance science and innovation in the province. Earlier this year she was awarded the 2017 Killam Prize in Engineering, Canada’s most prestigious engineering award. She is also the recipient of the 2015 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award for North America and the 2013 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. She has been a member of the Order of Ontario since 2011.
Outside of her own research, Shoichet is a passionate advocate for science and engineering and their important role in society. She has provided strategic advice to both the federal and provincial governments through her service on Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council and the Ontario Research Innovation Council. In 2014, Shoichet was appointed U of T President Meric Gertler’s Senior Advisor on Science and Engineering Engagement.
She is the co-founder of Research 2 Reality, which uses digital media to shine a spotlight on the contributions academic researchers are making to the country. In 2015, she received the Fleming Medal and Citation from the Royal Canadian Institute in recognition of her outstanding contributions to science communication.
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