Jun 19, 2024

Molly Shoichet named inaugural Pamela and Paul Austin Chair in Precision and Regenerative Medicine

Appointments, Faculty
Headshot of Molly Shoichet
Jenna Wakani
University Professor Molly Shoichet
By Tyler Irving

Reposted from U of T Engineering News.

University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, BME) has been named the inaugural Pamela and Paul Austin Chair in Precision and Regenerative Medicine.

The chair, situated within the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, was created in November 2023 via a gift from the The P. Austin Family Foundation. It will strengthen and expand research on personalized approaches to drug delivery, discovery, and tissue regeneration, driving innovation and translation of breakthrough research in these multidisciplinary fields.

“Precision medicine, epitomized by the maxim ‘the right treatment to the right patient at the right time’ is revolutionizing healthcare worldwide,” says Shoichet, who serves as Scientific Director for PRiME Next-Generation Precision Medicine. PRiME is a University of Toronto Institutional Strategic Initiative, based at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, that is dedicated to addressing unmet needs and challenges in drug discovery, diagnostics, and disease biology.

“It’s a great honour to hold this prestigious chair. Paul and Pamela Austin are visionaries, bringing together our global community in precision medicine. I am particularly excited to advance our precision medicine strategies in the brain, the eye and in cancer, with the ultimate goal of making a difference in human health.”

Shoichet, internationally renowned for her pioneering work in tissue engineering and drug delivery, is developing transformative solutions to promote tissue repair in the body that would otherwise be irreversible. Examples include nerves damaged due to spinal cord injury, stroke or degenerative diseases of the retina.

Her lab is deeply rooted in translational research, with over 40 filed patents which have been licensed and/or served as the foundational intellectual property for four spin-off companies co-founded by Shoichet.

For example, her lab has designed novel hydrogels, a class of advanced, jello-like biocompatible materials to enhance the body’s natural repair mechanisms. These hydrogels serve as scaffolds for regrowing tissue while delivering therapeutic agents in a carefully controlled manner, right to the site where they are most needed. These therapeutic agents range from traditional small-molecule drugs to advanced biologics to cells, tailored to individual therapeutic needs.

Shoichet was the first — and for many years, the only — person to have been elected a Fellow of all three of Canada’s National Academies. She was awarded the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, Canada’s highest honour for science and engineering research, in 2020. She is a member of the Order of Ontario, an Officer of the Order of Canada, a fellow of the Royal Society of London (UK) and a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

“We are extremely proud to have Professor Shoichet as the inaugural Pamela and Paul Austin Chair in Precision and Regenerative Medicine,” says Ramin Farnood, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry.

“Her work has already had a powerful impact on these rapidly-evolving fields, and this new research chair will catalyze even more exciting discoveries and insights in the years to come.”

“We are convinced that precision and regenerative medicine have the potential to make transformative impacts in health care,” says Paul Austin.

“Professor Shoichet’s work in these areas has been exemplary, and we are proud to support the next phase of her research. Together, we can continue building and sustaining healthy communities.”

“The creation of this chair is a great example of how support from our vibrant, global community is driving innovations that improve human health, both here at home and around the world,” says Christopher Yip, Dean of U of T Engineering.

“On behalf of the Faculty, I’d like to thank the Austin family for their generosity, and congratulate Professor Shoichet on this well-deserved honour.”