“Our next generation of scientists and Nobel laureates, and the future of the Technion depends on the Lokey Center.”
Technion scientist Prof. Dror Seliktar made headlines with the introduction of patented sophisticated gels to speed up the ability of the body to regenerate after traumatic injury, now undergoing clinical tests in Europe.
Now, his research team at the Lokey Center for Biomaterials and Tissue Regeneration at Technion is working on a new material for the mass production of stem cells to make their commercial use viable on an industrial scale.
“In the biotechnology industries, there is an inherent need for expanding populations of stem cells for therapeutic purposes,” says Seliktar of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, who has published over 50 papers in the field, won over 14 awards and launched one of Israel’s promising biotech startups, Regentis Biomaterials.
The team has identified a real practical need for effective handling of stem cells if they are to be widely used in the future. The culture techniques that are premised on laboratory petri dishes will have to be replaced by larger vessel reactors.
A patented customized gel developed by the team provides the substrate needed by stem cells to grow and multiply in these specialized reactors. “Using our material technology, we have the ability to adapt stem cell cultivation into a 3D suspension reactor,” says Seliktar. “We can encapsulate the cells in the gels which sit inside the reactor... allowing the cells to perceive an anchorage dependent environment normally provided by the petri dish culture methods.”
Lorry Lokey’s vision in investing in multidisciplinary research into life science and engineering is changing the scientific and industrial horizon in Israel, says Seliktar, whose 12-strong team includes eight PhD students in disciplines ranging from biotechnology engineering, materials science, chemical engineering, biology and more.
“We really benefit from the new facilities and new labs made possible by the generosity of Lokey. My lab is an environment that optimizes the type of research we are doing, both in the context of how students react in an interdisciplinary fashion, but also in providing a work place that is friendly and enabling for the students to be creative and efficient and diligent. On a global perspective, it has enabled us to bring in excellent scientists that contribute to the innovation of this place. This has expanded our ability to make an impact on the scientific and clinical worlds.”
A keyword with Seliktar is regeneration, and he describes the Lokey foundation gift as having a regenerative impact on the Technion. “These are our next generation of scientists and Nobel Laureates,” he says, “The future of the Technion relies on that.”
“If you get a traumatic injury to the knee, very few treatment options are available,” says Prof. Dror Seliktar, giving an example of one use of the innovative biodegradable hydrogels being marketed by a company he founded, Regentis Biomaterials.
“A replacement knee may eventually be required if the progression of the injury is not contained. If you are injured at age 25, it can be pretty daunting to know that at age 55 you may need a knee replacement. We can alleviate the progressive degeneration with a therapy that actually helps repair the tissue - intervening early on and preventing further degeneration.”
Established in 2004, Regentis Biomaterials is commercializing innovative biodegradable hydrogels for the local repair of damaged cartilage and bone. The platform technology is a family of hydrogels called Gelrin™. These gels can be injected or applied to a specific local site and offer beneficial properties for the local repair of damaged tissue such as cartilage and bone.
“The company is pretty unique in Israel, and also in the world,” says Seliktar. The Technion lab is among only a handful of laboratories worldwide that have developed novel biomaterials that are now clinically applied.