Elsevier Editors Awarded at Society for Biomaterials 2017 Annual Meeting

Allan S. Hoffman was recognized for his leadership in the field of biomaterials science with the Acta Biomaterialia Gold Medal award during the Society for Biomaterials Annual Meeting. Dr. Thomas J. Webster was also recognized for his work and received the first Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal award.

The Society for Biomaterials is the professional society for the biomaterials community that promotes the advancement of biomedical materials research. The annual meeting which took place in Minneapolis in April is an opportunity for researchers to give and listen to scientific talks on topics including regenerative engineering, drug delivery, bioprinting, and more.

In listening to their plenary talks, I was struck by how much the field of biomaterials science has advanced and how much there is still to go.

Dr. Hoffman’s research on smart polymers and hydrogels pioneered their applications in drug delivery. He is also the co-editor of the renowned and best-selling textbook Biomaterials Science, now in its third edition published by Elsevier. It is the key reference for students and practitioners on the applications of materials to medicine and has special significance for the biomaterials community as its royalties have been donated to the society to fund its student programming.

It seemed especially appropriate that this award was presented at the Society for Biomaterials (SFB) meeting as the theme of the meeting was “Where Materials Become Medicine,” which is also an apt description of Dr. Hoffman’s work and the Biomaterials Science textbook.

At the conference, Dr. Hoffman gave a plenary talk on “PEG and PEGylation, Then and Now—A Historical Commentary and Review”. PEGylation of a protein makes it so that the polymer masks the protein so it is not rejected by the body’s immune system. He discussed the early days of the field when to PEGylate a protein was first proposed by Dr. Frank Davis in the 1960s and how now PEG is the most commonly used polymer in biomaterials and drug delivery. He also looked to the future, discussing research that is looking to replace PEG because of studies on PEG antibodies and potential detrimental effects.

I was impressed to learn about the evolution of research from the “bench” to a multi-billion dollar industry. The translation of “Bench to Bedside” was another core theme of the conference and of significance to biomaterials science researchers. Ryan Egeland, the Senior Director of Business Development and Licensing at Medtronic, gave the keynote talk discussing the key components of translating research and the importance of fully considering the regulatory, manufacturing, patient care aspects of the idea. Dr. Hoffman highlighted one of the prominent success stories of translation.

Dr. Webster’s plenary talk also focused on the theme of translation, discussing “Two Decades of Commercializing Nanotechnology for Medical Devices.” He discussed the current challenges in health care and the potential for science to address these challenges. One challenge is the risk and prevalence of infection. In 2013 the CDC did a report on 2013 on antibiotic resistance and showed that 2 million people are infected with resistant bacteria each year. Dr. Webster discussed how in looking at nanostructures in nature it is possible to modify existing biomaterials with nanostructured topologies that would make the material resistant to bacteria and suitable for applications in medical devices.

Dr. Webster, also recognized by Acta Biomaterialia, is well-known for his research on nanomaterials and their applications towards tissue growth, reduction of inflammation, sensors, and other significant health applications. He is also the editor of the Elsevier book Nanomedicine which provides an overview of the latest research and application of nanomaterials for thereapeutics, imaging, and soft and bone tissue engineering.

The plenary Acta Biomaterialia talks provided a snapshot of how biomaterials have impacted the healthcare industry in the past and present and a glimpse to the future opportunities materials research can have in addressing challenges faced by the health community.