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Regenerative Medicine to be Focus of New Institute at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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PITTSBURGH, July 5, 2001 — To realize the vast potential of tissue engineering and other techniques aimed at repairing damaged or diseased tissues and organs, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have established the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM). As an entity, the MIRM will serve as a single base of operations for the university's leading scientists and clinical faculty working to develop tissue engineering, cellular therapies, biosurgery and artificial and biohybridorgan devices.

It is expected that the new institute will devise innovative clinical protocols as well as pursue rapid commercial transfer of its technologies related to regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine is an emerging field that approaches the repair or replacement of tissues and organs by incorporating the use of cells, genes or other biological building blocks along with bioengineered materials and technologies.

The new institute takes its name from the McGowan Center for Artificial Organ Development, which under its current guise, will cease to exist. Its faculty and programs will be incorporated into the MIRM, and with the MIRM's expanded role and mission, other university faculty will join forces as well. These include researchers working in tissue engineering, adult-derived stem cell research and wound healing, among others.

The MIRM will be directed by Alan J. Russell, Ph.D., who is currently the Nikolas DeCecco professor and chairman of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering, and associate director of the university's Center for Biotechnology and Bioengineering. Dr. Russell is internationally renowned for his research on biomaterials and bioengineering and holds a number of patents. He is executive director of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, a post he will continue in for at least another year.

Bartley P. Griffith, M.D., the Henry T. Bahnson professor of surgery, who had directed the McGowan Center for Artificial Organ Development since its inception in 1992, will play a major role at the new institute as medical director, continuing to provide vision and leadership of research that has helped the center to achieve world renown.

"This institute will be the most ambitious tissue engineering program in the nation, coupling biology and engineering in all facets of its work," stated Dr. Russell, whose primary academic appointment will now be in the school of medicine's department of surgery. "The University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center provide the perfect home for such an enterprise because of its leading programs in organ transplantation, biomedical research and bioengineering."

"One of the attractive features of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine is that it will enable cutting-edge basic and clinical research to be performed across disciplines, allowing organ and tissue engineering and cellular and regenerative therapies to be developed and swiftly evaluated in the clinical setting," added Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor, Health Sciences, and dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"We believe this institute is poised for national prominence. The Pittsburgh region, and more importantly, patients stand to benefit from the exciting developments we can expect to take place in the years to come," said Jeffrey A. Romoff, president of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The MIRM is expected to establish itself as a model for technology transfer. In addition, the institute plans to compete for major funding and to establish itself as a location for a National Tissue Engineering Center.

"The establishment of this institute is a natural extension of the McGowan Center's vision and missions, to ease the suffering of patients. Our center’s work has progressively incorporated a combination of pure mechanically engineered and cell-based biohybrid organ development. I am excited about the research empowerment this larger institute will provide. I am betting that the expanded team of talented researchers will help bring our discoveries to bear in the clinic," noted Dr. Griffith.

A number of projects will be conducted at the MIRM, including those in progress at the former McGowan Center. These include efforts to develop an axial-flow left-ventricular assist system for patients with end-stage heart disease, a respiratory assist device for patients with acute lung failure, a biohybrid artificial lung intended for long-term use, a novel blood additive that improves blood flow to oxygen-deprived tissues, a bioengineered blood vessel, and a myocardial patch of muscle cells intended to repair heart tissue damaged by heart attack. Many of the MIRM researchers will focus on developing and evaluating various biomaterials as well as looking at the potential of therapies using adult-derived stem cells.

Dr. Russell's particular research interests involve the symbiotic interface between enzymes and materials, including work that focuses on the development of rational approaches to biomaterial syntheses.

Author or co-author of more than 100 scientific papers, as well as 10 book chapters and a book, Dr. Russell holds numerous grants and has received several prestigious awards. Memberships in professional societies include the Tissue Engineering Society, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers, the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Russell joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1989 as an assistant professor of chemical engineering following a NATO Research Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his doctorate in biological chemistry from the Imperial College, the University of London, in 1987.

The MIRM will be housed where the McGowan Center was planning to move early next year -- in a two-story, 45,000-square-foot "green design" building on Pittsburgh's South Side, on the site of former LTV Steel. Construction of the building is being made possible through grants from the McGowan Charitable Fund, Heinz Endowments, R.K. Mellon Foundation and the state Department of Community Development and Economic Development.

The former McGowan Center for Artificial Organ Development and the new McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine are named after the late William G. McGowan, who as chief executive officer at MCI Communications underwent a successful heart transplant at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1987.

For more information, see the MIRM website at