10 March 2017

A pioneer in building new organs

How can we build an organ from scratch? This ambitious question is being solved by Sangeeta Bhatia of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bhatia’s pioneering work in regenerative medicine and her role as an advocate for diversity and women in science, will be recognized as she is awarded an honorary doctorate from Utrecht University, The Netherlands on March 27th, 2017. 

As a doctor, bioengineer and entrepreneur, Bhatia creates bioengineering solutions for medical problems, for example the development of the first microliver. This microliver that can improve patient-specific drug safety predictions, that can aid in the eradication of malaria from its dormant reservoir in the liver, and that serves as a basis for an implantable engineered liver that could one day replace the need for transplants in patients with liver disease. Bhatia continues to pioneer advances and has developed nanoparticles and nanoporous materials for detecting tumor cells and drug delivery. 

Honorary doctorate

The honorary doctorate will be presented by Wouter Dhert, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, who has contributed significantly to the positioning of regenerative medicine in The Netherlands. 

The conferring honorary professor is Niels Geijsen, Hubrecht Institute and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, who focuses on the development of novel gene editing technologies for human disease. Geijsen first met Bhatia during his time in Boston as faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “Sangeeta is a very inspiring researcher and I’m honored to be able to take part in this ceremony, “says Geijsen, “She’s incomparable, not only as a nexus of disciplines, but as an advocate for diversity and young talent.” 

Diversity and talent

Bhatia will give a presentation on Tuesday, 28 March about her research and the importance of investing in young diverse talent. Following her presentation, will be the introduction of the first Utrecht University student team that has entered the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. 

The iGEM competition was initiated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is dedicated to the advancement of science through education and competition, open community and collaboration. This is a unique chance for students to design, plan and carry out their own research project, to raise funds for the project and travel to Boston, and to present their research before a jury of top scientific experts at the annual iGEM Giant Jamboree. There are expected to be more than 300 teams in 2016 from 42 countries in Novemter this year to show their results. 

About Sangeeta Bhatia

Sangeeta Bhatia, M.D, Ph.D. is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Electrial Engineering and Computer Science. She is the director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, a member of the Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology – both part of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. She is also an Affiliated Faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, an Institute Member of the Broad Institute, a Biomedical Engineer at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Bhatia has been honored for her interdisciplinary contributions through elected memberships, has been recognized as an inventor who is changing the world with her application of technology by Fast Company and Foreign Policy magazines, was awarded the 2014 Lemelson-MIT Prize (the ‘Oscar for Inventors’) and the 2015 Heinz Award for Technology. She has been named one of the 10 Most Influential Women in Biotech, and to the MIT TR100 as one of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35.