Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic and her team of engineers, clinicians, and scientists are developing innovative technologies for engineering and studying human tissues. They are interested in regenerative medicine, tissue models for stem cell research, and “organs-on-a-chip” platforms for use in precision medicine.
Their laboratory is located in the Columbia University Medical Center, and has state of the art facilities for human stem cell and tissue engineering research. They are a founding member of the Stem Cell Core and Stem Cell Imaging Core, and are serving as the Bioreactor-Imaging Core of the national Tissue Engineering Resource Center founded to foster tissue engineering for medical impact. They are actively collaborating with colleagues at Columbia University, nationwide, and around the world. To translate their science into new therapeutic modalities, their lab has launched three biotech companies: epiBone (epibone.com), Tara(tarabiosystems.com), and East River Biosolutions (eastriverbio.com) that are all based in New York City.
To engineer a range of human tissue/organ systems, they provide the cells with native-like environments, using biomaterial scaffolds (templates for tissue formation) and bioreactors (culture systems enabling environmental control and signaling). They design biomaterial scaffolds by processing the native tissue matrix to recapitulate the composition, architecture, and mechanical properties of the native cell niche, for applications ranging from biological research to clinical delivery of therapeutic materials and cells. They design bioreactors for engineering human-scale tissues for regenerative medicine: bone, cartilage, heart muscle, and lung. In each case, the bioreactor is custom-designed to accommodate a specific tissue (such as the exact anatomy of a bone graft), to provide perfusion (such as air ventilation and vascular perfusion for supporting the lung), and to apply physical forces (such as dynamic loading to cartilage and bone, electromechanical conditioning to the heart muscle, hydrodynamic shear to bone and vasculature). They are also developing microscale bioreactors for studies of stem cell differentiation, modeling of diseases, and drug development. Bioreactors are integrated with imaging so that the changes in tissue structure and function can be monitored in real time.
Dr. Cullen received a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience from Brown University and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Chicago. After doctoral studies, Dr. Cullen was a Fellow at the Montreal Neurological Institute where she worked in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgy. In 1994, Dr. Cullen became an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology at McGill University, with appointments in Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience, and Otolaryngology. In 2002, Cullen was appointed a William Dawson Chair in recognition of her work in Systems Neuroscience and Neural Engineering, and served as Director of McGill’s Aerospace Medical Research Unit comprising four faculty and their research labs.
In 2016, Dr. Cullen moved to Johns Hopkins University, where she is now a Professor in Biomedical Engineering, and holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. In addition to her research activities, Dr. Cullen currently serves as the Program Chair and Vice President of the Society for the Neural Control of Movement. Dr. Cullen has been an active member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which works with NASA to identify health risks in extended space flight. She has also served as a reviewing editor on numerous Editorial Boards including the Journal of Neuroscience, the Journal of Neurophysiology, and the Journal of Research in Otolaryngology. Dr. Cullen has received awards including the Halpike-Nylen medal of the Barany Society for “outstanding contributions to basic vestibular science”, the Sarrazin Award Lectureship from the Canadian Physiological Society (CPS), and was elected Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on eye movement system biology. Cullen has served as Communications Lead for the Brain@McGill, and was Chair of the 2016 Canadian Association for Neuroscience meeting. She has published over 120 articles, book chapters, and patent applications and given over 140 national and international invited lectures.
Moderna is a clinical stage pioneer of messenger RNA Therapeutics™, an entirely new in vivo drug technology that produces human proteins, antibodies and entirely novel protein constructs inside patient cells, which are in turn secreted or active intracellularly. This breakthrough platform addresses currently undruggable targets and offers a superior alternative to existing drug modalities for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Moderna is developing and plans to commercialize its innovative mRNA drugs through its own ventures and its strategic relationships with established pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Its current ventures are: Onkaido, focused on oncology, Valera, focused on infectious diseases, Elpidera, focused on rare diseases, and Caperna, focused on personalized cancer vaccines. Founded by Flagship VentureLabs™, Cambridge-based Moderna is privately held and currently has strategic agreements with AstraZeneca, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Merck and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. To learn more, visit www.modernatx.com.