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Indiana University School of Medicine is investing more than $20 million over the next five years to establish a new center focused on regenerative medicine, a rapidly developing field aimed at repairing and replacing tissue and organs damaged by age, disease or trauma.
Chandan Sen, PhD, one of the nation’s leading experts in the discipline, has been recruited from The Ohio State University to serve as inaugural director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering effective August 15. He brings with him more than $10 million in research grants and a team of more than 30 scientists and staff who will study how to tap into the power of regenerative medicine and engineering to heal burns, develop new therapies for diabetic complications, treat injured soldiers, and even regrow damaged and diseased tissue.
“The potential of regenerative medicine is tremendous, and in Chandan Sen we will have one the country’s most accomplished and innovative researchers leading our program,” said IU School of Medicine Dean Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA. “We expect IU School of Medicine to be among a handful of top institutions delivering on the promise of regenerative medicine. The discoveries made and the new therapies and devices developed at this center will improve the lives of Hoosiers and of patients everywhere.”
Sen and his team have already developed a non-invasive, nanochip device that uses technology called tissue nanotransfection to reprogram one type of tissue into another with a simple touch and electric spark that is harmless to the body. In laboratory studies, the group was able to convert skin tissue in mice into functional blood vessels that were used to repair a badly injured leg. Similar experiments have shown promise in larger animals such as the pig.
The technology has been licensed with the goal of making it available for use in humans. Sen feels confident that this technology—which avoids the use of stem cells and is simple to use—will one day enable skin and other tissue to be converted to tissue types necessary for therapy. For example, it may help prevent amputation in diabetics and repair nerve damage related to neuropathy.
A team of interdisciplinary experts will continue developing the technology at the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, which will involve a collaboration with faculty across multiple disciplines at Indiana University as well as in the Purdue University Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.
“The vision of this center is to take regenerative medicine forward in a way that no one else is doing in the world today,” Sen said. “Each cell of the adult body has some regenerative properties, some more than others. Our approach aims at reprogramming adult tissue utilizing our own technologies that can be readily used in a field setting without any laboratory-based procedures. We plan to use the technologies at our disposal—some of which were generated by our group and some of which are available at IU and Purdue—to develop transformative health care solutions that will clearly impact people‘s lives.”
PARTNERSHIPS IMPROVE PATIENT HEALTH AND ECONOMIC VITALITY
The Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering will be located in 11,000 square feet of newly renovated space in the Medical Research & Library building on the IU School of Medicine campus in downtown Indianapolis.
The center will be closely linked to the clinical program at Indiana University Health, with Sen serving as executive director of the IU Health Comprehensive Wound Center. Sen’s science has led to FDA-cleared commercial products in the domain of wound care.
Beyond the potential benefits for patient care, the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering also promises to contribute to Indiana’s critically important life sciences, tech and advanced engineering economy.
Sen will collaborate with industry partners, including Indianapolis-based Cook Regentec and West Lafayette-based Cook Biotech, as part of the INCITE program. INCITE, funded with a $25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., is designed to attract top scientists to Indiana whose expertise are in alignment with Indiana’s major life science companies. A portion of Sen’s start-up package is being funded through the grant.
The regenerative medicine center will also place a heavy emphasis on commercialization, ensuring that discoveries are developed into marketable solutions that reach patients. With that in mind, Sen and the center will have space in the new 16 Tech innovation community planned for the near west side of Indianapolis.
“As a research-intensive medical school, we are highly focused on developing new therapies for patients,” said Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, executive associate dean for research affairs. “To be successful, we must continue building productive relationships with industry and ensure we develop pathways for our research to be translated into new drugs, diagnostics and devices. Chandan has demonstrated that he is adept at turning ideas into innovative solutions and will no doubt contribute to Indiana’s standing as a leader in the life sciences.”
Sen will also hold a leadership role in the IU Precision Health Initiative. The first of Indiana University’s Grand Challenges, the IU Precision Health Initiative aims to prevent and cure diseases through a more precise understanding of the genetic, behavioral and environmental factors that influence a person’s health. With the establishment of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering comes the creation of a sixth pillar—or scientific area of focus—of the IU Precision Health Initiative focused on regenerative medicine and engineering.
STATEMENTS FROM COLLABORATORS AND INFLUENCERS
“IU Health looks forward to working closely with the new center and its scientists to help apply their research to improvements in patient care. The advances coming in regenerative medicine stand to benefit patients at IU Health and elsewhere.”
– Dennis Murphy, President and CEO of IU Health
“Dr. Sen’s innovative work shows the real-world impact of university-based research. His visionary innovations promise to save and improve lives not just across the Hoosier state, but around the world.”
– Fred H. Cate, Vice President for Research, Indiana University
“Cook is happy to welcome Dr. Sen to the growing life science ecosystem here in Indiana. We share with Dr. Sen a deep interest and commitment to helping patients in areas like regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and wound care. The presence of research and innovation teams at Cook Regentec in the 16 Tech innovation district adjacent to IUSM and also at Cook Biotech in West Lafayette provides a tangible opportunity for collaboration and technology advancement.”
– Rob Lyles, President, Cook Regentec
“16 Tech is purposefully designed to stimulate innovation and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and ideas to collide. It’s also a place that will attract world-class talent. We are pleased to welcome the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering to 16 Tech and to provide the environment where collaboration among world-class talent could very well lead to life-changing medical advances.”
– Bob Coy, President and CEO of 16 Tech Community Corporation
“This exciting and timely initiative will bolster Indiana’s position as a life science leader through the development of innovative technologies that enlarge health care approaches and open new business opportunities.”
– George R. Wodicka, Dane A. Miller Head and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering
ABOUT CHANDAN SEN, PHD
Originally from India, Chandan Sen graduated from the University of Calcutta with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physiology and earned his PhD, also in physiology, from the University of Eastern Finland. He trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology.
Sen’s first faculty appointment was in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. He moved to The Ohio State University in 2000. He held multiple leadership roles at Ohio State, including executive director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Wound Center and director of the university’s Center for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Based Therapies.
At IU, he is a professor of surgery with tenure and holds the J. Stanley Battersby Chair. He is also associate vice president for military and applied research for Indiana University; associate dean for entrepreneurship for the IU School of Medicine; professor of biomedical engineering by courtesy at Purdue University; and associate director for technology and innovation for the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.