Jeffrey Hubbell named inaugural Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering

Prof. Jeffrey Hubbell, a biomaterials scientist and entrepreneur, has been named the inaugural Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering at the University of Chicago.

The Bell Professorship was created to promote innovative work at UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Hubbell was serving as the Barry L. MacLean Professor of Molecular Engineering Innovation and Enterprise at the University.

“Jeff Hubbell is a pioneering researcher and early entrepreneur in the field of tissue engineering,” said Matthew Tirrell, the Pritzker Director of IME and deputy laboratory director for science at Argonne National Laboratory. “His 2005 paper on synthetic microenvironments for tissue engineering has been cited thousands of times, and he has trained dozens of other leaders in the field in his laboratory. This year, the Society for Biomaterials endowed him with their highest honor, the Founders Award.”

The Bell Professorship, which is supported by a $3.5 million donation from the Millicent and Eugene Bell Foundation, was created to foster scholarship on tissue engineering at MBL and IME, where scientists are focused on exploring innovative technology at the molecular scale, with the potential for societal impact in areas including health care, computing, energy and the environment. The gift was made in memory of Eugene Bell, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the MBL scientific community, who founded the field of tissue engineering through efforts to generate replacement tissue for treating severe burns and other injuries.

“It is a tremendous honor to follow in the footsteps of Eugene Bell, who through application of discoveries in cell biology and innovations in biomaterials science launched the field of tissue engineering with his work on engineered skin and blood vessels,” Hubbell said.

Hubbell joined UChicago in 2014 after serving as the Merck-Serono Chair in Drug Delivery at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, where he also was founding director of the Institute of Bioengineering. He has served on the faculty of the University of Texas and California Institute of Technology.

In his new appointment, Hubbell will continue to be based at IME. He will direct a research project at the MBL’s Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering and hold a faculty appointment there.

"We are incredibly excited that Jeff will be joining us on a more regular basis,” said David Mark Welch, interim director of MBL Division of Research. “He has already started several collaborative projects that leverage his expertise in tissue engineering with the unique marine models available at the MBL.”

In his research in tissue engineering, Hubbell designs materials to guide processes of morphogenesis through engineering of extracellular matrix molecules and growth factors, to create implants that are drug-like in their function. He and his team are also developing molecular- and materials-engineering approaches in immunotherapy, including focusing vaccination on infectious disease and cancer.

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. Other companies include Kuros Biosciences, which develops growth factor engineering and biomaterials technology for surgical sealants and tissue repair agents, and QGel, which develops biomaterials matrices for cell culture in drug discovery.