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U of T Professor Awarded $1 Million for Human Tissue Mimicking Gel Breakthrough

On Tuesday, November 10th, a study on ‘Hydrogels’ started by the Shoichet Lab at the University of Toronto was recognized by NSERC as a ‘crucial breakthrough’ to allow researchers to gain insights into cellular growth in complex three-dimensional environments in a way not previously possible. Professor Molly Shoichet, the leading researcher of Shoichet Lab and Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering was declared the 2020 winner of the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal and awarded a million-dollar prize.

The study and development of ‘Hydrogels’ hold value immeasurable to its prize money, however, as it is not only a fancy tool for general education and research but also an applicable material to mimic any human tissue for specific model building. In a past collaboration of pharmaceutical testing, Dr. Shoichet’s ‘Hydrogels’ allowed researchers to mimic the conditions of a rare lung disease, then rapidly screen out hundreds of treatments to zero in on promising solutions. This process of elevated efficiency and accuracy compared to traditional testing methods is now accessible in labs around the globe to search for cures to other disease conditions.

Having “fundamentally advanced biomedical engineering research and placed the next generation of medical treatments within our grasp”, Dr. Shoichet does not rest on her laurel. She has made clear that this money will be used to fund Shoichet Lab’s research and give her team the opportunity to ask and answer scientific questions on a broader scale. ‘Hydrogels’ are not the furthest milestone they are able to achieve, nor will it be where they are willing to rest.