NSF Awards N.C. A&T, Partners $160m To Transform Regenerative Medicine Research

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a 10-year, up to $160 million grant to establish the Piedmont Triad Regenerative Medicine Engine (Regen Medicine Engine) – one of 10 inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines across the nation. This investment is one of the largest across federal agencies to date and the effort, led by Wake Forest University (WFU) School of Medicine, is in collaboration with a core team from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Winston-Salem State University, Forsyth Technical Community College and industry partners ReMDO and Axiom Space.

The Regen Medicine Engine team describes regenerative medicine’s goal as a means to “replace or restore function to tissues and organs compromised by injury or disease” through interdisciplinary expertise. 

The core team will establish Innovation, Translation and Education Cores that focus on five areas:

  • N.C. A&T, biomaterials and bioengineering – developing biomaterials, cell scaffolds for regen products
  • ReMDO and Axiom Space, in-space manufacturing technology – modular bio manufacturing capabilities for point-of-care applications
  • Winston-Salem State University, cell biology – developing chemically defined non-traditional cell culture technologies to support specific human cell phenotypes
  • Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM), process development and manufacturing – serving partnering institutions by providing training and access to specialized equipment
  • Forsyth Technical Community College, technical skills – developing automated and standardized clinical manufacturing capabilities including additive manufacturing, bioreactors and in-process biosensors

A&T Distinguished Professor and Regen Medicine Engine’s Co-chief Research and Development Officer Salil Desai, Ph.D., is an expert in various areas including hybrid nano/micro and biomanufacturing, regenerative tissue engineering and drug delivery. He is looking forward to the opportunities students will receive while working on this project. 

“A&T’s leadership of the biomaterials and biomanufacturing core of the Piedmont Triad Regenerative Medicine Engine will give students hands-on experience that will develop the next generation workforce providing novel therapies for human well-being,” said Desai, who also directs the university’s Center of Excellence in Product Design and Advanced Manufacturing (CEPDAM) and is an adjunct professor at WFIRM.

Desai will work with A&T staff and faculty members Del Ruff, university chief diversity officer; Sanjiv Sarin, Ph.D., special assistant to the chancellor and industrial systems engineering professor; bioengineering professors Narayan Bhattarai, Ph.D., and Yeohung Yun, Ph.D., and assistant professor Mohammad Azad, Ph.D.; assistant chemistry professor Bishnu Bastakoti, Ph.D.; Geleana Alston, Ph.D., professor and interim chair of the Department of Leadership Studies and Adult Education; and assistant nanoengineering professor Kristen Dellinger, Ph.D.

This interdisciplinary team represents the university’s long-standing capabilities in convening leading experts to conduct groundbreaking research that has practical applications, including in related areas such as CEPDAM’s bio, agro environmental systems manufacturing cluster.

“CEPDAM was formed in 2019 as part of an intentional strategy focused on Centers of Excellence to grow preeminence in research, teaching and outreach at N.C. A&T,” said Eric Muth, Ph.D., A&T’s vice chancellor for research and economic development. “This significant award, and the excellent work happening under the leadership of Dr. Desai, illustrate how the intentionality of the past is and will create an impactful A&T today and in the future. Aggies do, but are never done.”

The NSF kicked off its inaugural Regional Innovation Engines announcement Jan. 26 by first revealing both the Winston-Salem-based Regen Medicine Engine and the North Carolina Sustainable Textiles Innovation Engine, based in the Raleigh and Gaston areas.

The agency also highlighted Regen Medicine Engine’s capacity to become a self-sustaining “regional project to provide an innovation ecosystem to stimulate workforce development, job creation, and economic growth through the development of technologies that benefit the emerging regenerative medicine industry.”

More than 80 partners have committed to support this ecosystem, which includes local businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.

Each NSF Engine team will initially receive $15 million within the first two years, followed by a larger investment over the next five years during the “ramp-up” years.

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