Joyce Wong Joins Biomaterials Elite

Elected a Fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering

By Patrick L. Kennedy

Professor Joyce Wong (BME, MSE) has been elected a Fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering, joining a group of less than 500 of the most respected biomaterials scientists around the globe. Bestowed by the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering (IUSBSE), the title is the field’s highest honor.

Wong was selected a fellow for “innovative discoveries of how cell-biomaterial interfaces modulate fundamental cellular processes and [for] applying fundamental principles to regenerative medicine and theranostics; for significant contributions to the Society of Biomaterials and the broader biomaterials community; [and] for national recognition of exceptional leadership in promoting and advancing women in STEM at all levels,” the IUSBSE announced. Wong will be formally inducted into the International College of Fellows at the World Biomaterials Congress this week in Daegu, South Korea.

Joyce Wong (BME, MSE)

“It’s a great honor,” says Wong. “I think it’s a recognition of the advances that my lab has made in such a broad area of biomaterials, ranging from the fundamentals to applications, in combination with my advocacy efforts” as past president of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). “The science, the research, and the findings are important, but I think you can do so much more, because it’s the policies that will ensure health equity.”

Long active in pediatric vascular tissue engineering, Wong has in recent years focused her research on maternal and child health, in particular on identifying and treating abdominal adhesions—scar-tissue-like knots that can arise after cesarean deliveries and cause female infertility. She is developing a semi-noninvasive “theranostic” (therapeutic and diagnostic) tool using engineered microbubbles that aid the ultrasound imaging of adhesions.

Wong and colleagues are also working on an imaging tool using iron-oxide nanoparticles to detect and treat cancer cells—which grew out of her fundamental work of developing contrast imaging agents to detect oil deposits in the earth. “The particles are so versatile,” Wong says. “We’re now trying to do magnetic-guided drug delivery. The goal of theranostics as I see it is early detection and prevention and treatment, before cancer or another disease gets to an extreme stage.”

Moreover, Wong is working on treatments for preeclampsia—pregnancy complications caused by high blood pressure—by developing a placenta-on-a-chip model. “This ties back to my earlier cardiovascular research,” she says. “All of that requires an understanding of cell-material interactions.”

As president of AIMBE for her two-year term, which ended this year, Wong has done much to set the group’s course for the next decade. She oversaw the hiring of AIMBE’s new executive director and placed an emphasis on advocacy at the regional as well as national level.

“So much is happening in the state legislatures,” Wong says. “I’m very interested in engaging more of our faculty and industry colleagues in important matters—not just advocating for more funding, but also educating people and spreading awareness of what the role is that medical and biological engineers can play, and helping to define the criteria for health equity—and just getting people excited about science and engineering.”

Wong was the inaugural director of Advance, Recruit, Retain & Organize Women in STEM (ARROWS), an initiative of the Boston University Provost’s office. In fact, it was her gender equity work that led her to focus her research on maternal and child health. In addition to IUSBSE and AIMBE, she is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering, and the Controlled Release Society.