Jeffrey Hubbell honored for landmark biomaterials research

Greg Borzo
News Officer, Physical SciencesUniversity of Chicago News Office

Jeffrey Hubbell, the Barry L. MacLean Professor of Molecular Engineering Innovation and Enterprise at the University of Chicago, recently received the Society for Biomaterials’ 2017 Founders Award, the organization’s top honor, given for “long-term, landmark contributions to the discipline of biomaterials.”

“It is a great honor to be recognized as having developed, with my team, ideas that are foundational to our field,” Hubbell said.

Hubbell designs materials to assemble and function in such a way that they can stimulate the immune system to fight infection or malignancy—or turn off some aspects of the immune system to address auto-immune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. He is credited with the term “immuno-modulatory materials” to describe this newly emerging field of research. Hubbell and his team develop molecular- and materials-engineering approaches in immunotherapy. It focuses on vaccination in infectious disease and cancer, as well as on an antigen-specific tolerance induction to protein drugs and autoimmune antigens.

The Society for Biomaterials is a multidisciplinary society of academic, health care, governmental and business professionals dedicated to promoting advancements in all aspects of biomaterial science, including education and professional standards, to enhance human health and quality of life. Hubbell is a former president of the society.

An entrepreneurial biomaterials scientist, Hubbell has co-founded five companies, three of which are based on or related to research he directs at his UChicago laboratory. Most recently, Hubbell and Cathy Nagler, the Bunning Food Allergy Professor at UChicago, worked with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Institute for Translational Medicine to found ClostraBio, a UChicago startup that is developing treatments for food allergies. Kuros Biosciences in Zurich, Switzerland is developing growth factor engineering and biomaterials technology for surgical sealants and tissue repair agents. QGel in Lausanne, Switzerland develops biomaterials matrices for cell culture in drug discovery. Anokion in Lausanne and Cambridge is developing immunological tolerance technology for treating autoimmunity and preventing immune reactions to protein drugs, while Kanyos Bio in Cambridge develops that technology in Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease in particular.  Hubbell joined the UChicago faculty in 2014.

“Our lab tries to find a sweet spot where we can both use our biomaterials approaches to learn something new about biology and to develop new therapeutics,” Hubbell said. “Moving our approaches forward toward clinical applications is a key aspiration for us.”