The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine is proud to announce that Deputy Directors, Stephen Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD (top), and William Wagner, PhD (bottom), were selected as winners of the 2008 Awards for Excellence. Dr. Badylak, Professor in the Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, will receive the Advanced Materials Award that recognizes accomplishments in materials science that create new materials or new properties for existing materials that leads to significant business, economic, or societal benefits. Dr. Wagner, Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and Director of Thrombosis Research for the Artificial Heart and Lung Program, will receive the Life Sciences Award that recognizes and honors scientific advances in new and innovative biomedical and life sciences endeavors. Both winners will be presented with their awards on May 9, 2008, at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh during a ceremony to honor the most recent award recipients and salute the tremendous work and vitality of this region.
Dr. Badylak’s nomination focused on his and his research team’s work investigating naturally occurring “scaffolds” for organ and tissue reconstruction. In his early studies, Dr. Badylak discovered that a strong, pliable tissue harvested from a porcine small intestine provides an inductive scaffold for host cells to replace and repair damaged tissue. This biomaterial is called small intestinal submucosa, or SIS, and it is a naturally-occurring, complex matrix that is easy to handle, yet strong enough to hold sutures and provide support for weakened tissue. SIS is used for orthopedic procedures such as rotator cuff and tendon repair and to reinforce soft tissue in the repair of a hernia. In addition, SIS is also used to help the body close hard-to-heal wounds such as second-degree burns, chronic pressure ulcers, diabetic skin ulcers, and deep skin lacerations.In a further use of SIS technologies, Dr. Badylak will soon be ready to launch a clinical trial for the repair of damaged esophageal tissue. Typically, corrective action is needed for the esophagus when it is damaged by cancer or traumatic injury. Dr. Badylak continues to pursue other challenging clinical needs as well; one of his current studies with the Department of Defense is to learn how to help to extend the length of fingers lost in military conflict. This is a concentrated effort to benefit injured soldiers who have served in Iraq and other international locales and come home with traumatic injury. If a measure of achievement and impact is the number of individuals whose quality of life, and/or time of recovery has been improved by a scientific achievement, then Dr. Badylak, through his pioneering discoveries and his aggressive pursuit of the transition of technologies from lab to clinical practice, has helped over 1.5 million patients with his tissue engineering technologies. On a world-wide basis, the use of SIS is clearly the most successful and widely utilized tissue engineering technique and material that has ever reached clinical practice.
Dr. Wagner’s nomination focused on his and his team’s groundbreaking research in biomaterials and tissue engineering that has laid the foundation for revolutionizing therapeutic procedures involving the cardiovascular system. In many cases today we treat the symptoms; based on the Wagner-developed technologies, clinicians will eliminate the cause of the health-related problem. Simply stated, Dr. Wagner has invented a method to prepare tissue engineered, biodegradable scaffolds that can be used to generate new tissue, such as cardiac tissue or blood vessels. Dr. Wagner has devised methods to utilize these scaffolds to repair cardiovascular defects. The Wagner scaffold is being adapted to cure the problem of scar tissue formation in cardiac muscle following a heart attack. After scar tissue on the heart muscle is removed and replaced with the artificial scaffold patch, in pre-clinical studies it will grow new cardiac tissue and restore functional cardiac muscle, eliminating the cardiac deficiency.In addition, not only are Dr. Wagner’s life science achievements internationally recognized, he is also widely recognized for making optimal use of collaborative research. Of the above listed cardiovascular projects, collaboration with at least one other university lab is involved with each one. A result of the use of collaboration is that Dr. Wagner has the opportunity to make an impact in the medical outcome of a wider range of patients undergoing a variety of tests and procedures. Dr. Wagner is the recipient of this award due to the significant advances he is making in the fight against heart disease, America’s leading cause of death.