Grinstaff Named as Inaugural Distinguished Professor of Translational Research


By Mark Dwortzan

Professor Mark Grinstaff (BME, Chemistry, MSE) explores how biomedical engineers translate their ideas into clinical solutions in his graduate-level biomaterials class. (Photo by Cydney Scott)
Professor Mark Grinstaff (BME, Chemistry, MSE) explores how biomedical engineers translate their ideas into clinical solutions in his graduate-level biomaterials class. (Photo by Cydney Scott)

Professor Mark Grinstaff (BME, Chemistry, MSE) has been named as the inaugural College of Engineering Distinguished Professor of Translational Research. The award, which comes with an annual discretionary fund of $20,000, recognizes Grinstaff’s past achievements and future potential in advancing engineering and scientific principles to invent and translate new technologies to impact society.

“It is an honor to receive this Professorship,” said Grinstaff. “The funds will be used to explore new ideas in the laboratory and to enable students and postdoctoral fellows to travel to conferences so that they can disseminate their results to a wider audience.”

“Mark’s accomplishments have had an extraordinary impact as perceived by leading scientists and engineers at Boston University and throughout the world,” said Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen.

For two decades, Grinstaff has pursued highly interdisciplinary research aimed at elucidating underlying fundamental chemistry and engineering principles, and applying them to develop new materials and devices for clinical applications. In the past five years alone, he has produced more high-impact inventions than many researchers do in an entire career. Supported by the Grinstaff Group, a lab with more than 20 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, Advanced Energy Consortium, the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology, and other agencies, he has developed:

  • a new joint lubricant that could bring longer lasting relief to millions of osteoarthritis sufferers;
  • a novel method for detecting and delivering healing drugs to newly formed micro-cracks in bones;
  • a highly absorbent hydrogel that not only seals wounds, but can later be dissolved and gently removed, suitable for first responders from the emergency room to the battlefield;
  • a unique material and drug delivery mechanism that could lead to implants that release a drug at a designated rate for months, suitable for treating chronic pain or preventing lung cancer recurrence after surgical resection;
  • a new type of medical contrast agent for imaging cartilage;
  • a novel nanopore device for detecting bacterial versus viral DNA.

Grinstaff has co-founded four companies to translate some of his ideas into clinical products. The first,Hyperbranch Medical Technology, produces biodegradable surgical sealants that are already widely used by surgeons. The others, advancing products that have not yet completed clinical trials, are Flex Biomedical (a synthetic polymer to treat osteoarthritis), Acuity Bio (flexible films to prevent tumor recurrence after surgical resection) and Affinergy (leading edge assays and research tools aimed at improving scientific and diagnostic outcomes).

Grinstaff also directs the NIH-funded Translational Research in Biomaterials program at BU, which not only trains PhD students in scientific aspects of biomaterials, but also provides them with a solid understanding of clinical trials, commercialization strategies and other concepts needed to effectively transition research ideas from the laboratory to the clinic.

The Translational Research professorship comes on the heels of Grinstaff’s April 1 appointment as director of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology (CNN), which combines Boston University’s strengths in nanotechnology,  engineering and medicine to improve our understanding of subcellular processes, biomolecular function and human physiology, and to apply that knowledge  to clinical challenges.

“CNN is uniquely positioned to support and assist faculty interested in this area and will continue to support both basic and translational activities,” said Grinstaff.

Grinstaff has published more than 190 peer-reviewed manuscripts, filed more than 40 patents, and delivered more than 250 oral presentations. His students and fellows have given more than 125 oral presentations and 325 posters at national and international meetings. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nanomedicine, American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering, and National Academy of Inventors.  His numerous awards include the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award, NSF Career Award, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, Edward M. Kennedy Award for Health Care Innovation and the inaugural Innovator of the Year Award from BU’s Office of Technology Development.

Grinstaff received his PhD from the University of Illinois and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology.