Institute Announces New Leadership, Unveils New Name
in Recognition of Knight Foundation Chairman

  • The addition of two best-in-class leaders with the hire of president and CEO Frank L. Douglas, Ph.D., M.D. and the board appointment of Aaron Lazare, M.D.
  • The launch of the cross-discipline Centers of Excellence and the growth of grant-award dollars at the partner institutions by over 10 million from 2008 to 2009.
  • The assembly of multiple highly regarded academic and clinical hires at partner institutions, strengthening an already strong presence (e.g., 14 new research hires, 10 open, approved positions and BioInnovation Institute-approval for 40 additional positions)
  • The renaming of the BioInnovation Institute in Akron to the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron in honor of John S. and James L. Knight Foundation chairman W. Gerald Austen, M.D. and his wife Patricia R. Austen

AKRON, OH, September 14, 2009 — The BioInnovation Institute in Akron, a premier biomaterials institute built on a unique collaboration of five leading medical and educational institutions, set forth a bold vision of global distinctiveness as a leader in biomaterials and medical research, education, clinical services and commercialization. One year later, the BioInnovation Institute is delivering on its promise to expand Akron’s legacy in materials science, and to pioneer the next generation of life-enhancing and life-saving biomedical innovations.

Best-in-class Leadership

The BioInnovation Institute recently announced senior-level expansion with the hiring of president and CEO Frank L. Douglas, Ph.D., M.D. A 24-year industry veteran, Douglas joins the BioInnovation Institute as day-to-day chief strategist, executing against its mission and vision, and supporting business development efforts on behalf of the BioInnovation Institute.

“The BioInnovation Institute in Akron represents a best-in-class model for the future of healthcare delivery and innovation,” said Douglas. “The history of the city of Akron, combined with the outstanding contributions from each of the founding partners, has created a bedrock for excellence in the field of bioinnovation and I am pleased to be part of this exceptional team.”

Prior to joining the BioInnovation Institute, Douglas served as senior fellow, Ewing M. Kauffman Foundation; senior partner, Puretech Ventures; chief scientific adviser, Bayer Healthcare, AG; and executive vice president and chief scientific officer, Aventis Pharma AG. He also served as professor of the Practice at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Schools of Management, Engineering and Science and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, an interdisciplinary educational and research program. A proven biomedical thought leader, Douglas was also founder and executive director of MIT’s Center of Biomedical Innovation.

Douglas has served on the boards of Aventis Pharma AG and Gene Logic, and is currently on the board of directors of Enlight Biosciences and Nitromed, Inc. He has led teams of scientists toward the discovery, development and/or registration of more than 20 drugs, including: Allegra, Nicoderm, and Actonel.

Douglas has received more than 15 industry awards, including the Global Pharmaceutical Chief Scientific Officer of the Year Award, the Wolfgang von Goethe Medal of Honor, the Associated Black Charities’ Black History Makers Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, the Heart of the Year Award from the Chicago Heart Association and the Louis B. Russell Memorial Award from the American Heart Association, both for his development of high blood pressure screening and control programs for African-American churches in Chicago.

After graduating cum laude from Lehigh University, Douglas attended the prestigious Cornell University where he earned his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1972 and his M.D. in 1977. He completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution and a Fellowship in Neuroendocrinology at the National Institutes of Health.

“We are thrilled to have someone with Dr. Douglas’ experience and expertise join our organization,” said William H. Considine, chairman of the BioInnovation Institute and president and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital. “The breadth and depth of his knowledge will enable him to quickly evaluate and understand the needs of the BioInnovation Institute, and I am certain he will prove invaluable to its growth.”

The BioInnovation Institute in Akron also announced the addition of esteemed professor, Aaron Lazare, M.D. to its board of directors. Lazare is the former chancellor and dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), posts he held from 1991-2007 and 1990-2007 respectively, making him one of the longest serving medical school deans in history.

During his tenure, the medical school achieved academic prominence and unprecedented expansion, including mergers with the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, and the Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories. In addition, Lazare spearheaded the construction of a $100 million, 360,000-square-foot research laboratory building that bears his name.

“Lazare is a medical professional of international standing,” said Douglas. “His presence on the board will provide us with valuable insight and we’re thrilled to have him.”

Lazare currently serves as the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor in Medical Education and professor of psychiatry at UMMS. He received his A.B. in 1957 from Oberlin College and his M.D. in 1961 from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Centers of Excellence

In addition to the leadership gains, the BioInnovation Institute announced the addition of five major initiatives to its offerings. The Centers of Excellence were created to realize the vision of global leadership in biomaterials — rapidly taking ideas from the lab through proof-of-concept demonstration to standard of medical care. Innovative ideas and practices will be generated, developed, evaluated, refined and applied through:

Center for Biomaterials and Medicine

The BioInnovation Institute is creating a center of research excellence with core strengths in biopolymers, orthopaedics and wound healing. The Center for Biomaterials and Medicine (CBMM) will leverage world-class polymer science and engineering into high-value clinical applications aimed at accelerating biomedical innovation.

CBMM will span the full R&D continuum composed of basic sciences, translational and preclinical research, clinical research and commercialization. The CBMM will capitalize on the Akron region’s rich 100-year history in polymer science and engineering, including extended R&D capabilities, a highly educated workforce and knowledgeable capital sources.

CBMM is recruiting 40 additional researchers and their lab teams in the following focus areas:

  • Biomaterials for orthopaedic and wound care applications
  • Polymers as coatings for implanted medical devices
  • Polymers combined with growth factors and/or seeded with cells for tissue generation and repair

Medical Device Development Center

The BioInnovation Institute’s Medical Device Development Center (MDDC) will provide a unique resource for companies and researchers to design, test, synthesize and manufacture new materials and healthcare applications of biomaterials. MDDC will provide entrepreneurs and scientists with flexible and easy access to resources for commercialization of their ideas and products.

Many of these resources are provided by partner institutions, and include specialized research laboratories in orthopaedics and biopolymers.

MDDC also will collaborate with biomedical commercialization efforts, including: BioEnterprise, the Akron Biomedical Corridor, the Akron Global Business Accelerator and Akron ARCHAngels to connect companies with scientists and clinical investigators, local resources for manufacturing and sources of investment capital.

Center for Clinical Trials

The BioInnovation Institute is creating a center of excellence for attracting, leading and executing industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated clinical studies. The Center for Clinical Trials (CCT) supports the launch and administration of clinical trials, and promotes collaboration among scientists and clinicians across institutions. This will lead to:

  • Improved patient care through increased access to leading-edge medical therapies and services
  • Increased translational research and commercialization through clinical studies
  • Expanded opportunities for medical professionals such as research fellows and clinical investigators to engage in leading-edge research

Center for Health Care Training

The Center for Health Care Training (CHCT) at the BioInnovation Institute seeks to establish a nationally recognized model for simulation-based education and training programs. CHCT will be a central resource with a full complement of facilities, staff and services for simulation training in clinical skills.

CHCT will improve Akron’s ability to develop, attract and retain its world-class healthcare workforce by:

  • Leveraging cutting-edge methods and technologies to transform the education and training of medical, nursing and other health and human services professionals
  • Developing new team-based simulation training programs that improve patient outcomes
  • Facilitating the testing and evaluation of emerging medical techniques and devices, especially in orthopaedic and wound care specialties, providing a site for industry training

Community Outreach to the Medically Underserved

The BioInnovation Institute’s Community Outreach to the Medically Underserved (COMU) initiative will build a community outreach organization to coordinate and deliver healthcare to the growing medically underserved populations, going beyond treatment to also include the holistic integration of access, prevention and disease management.

COMU seeks to meet health and human needs in the region, improve community wellness and ultimately help stem the rising costs of uncompensated care for the community and partner health institutions.

COMU’s care delivery infrastructure will not only be a vehicle to coordinate and deliver care to an increasing number of the community’s medically underserved, but also a way to pilot and analyze new approaches for improving community health. Leveraging and integrating technology will be one of the key ways COMU will better facilitate access and delivery of better care.

High-level Recruitment

As well as managing the expansion of its biomaterials offerings with the launch of the cross-discipline Centers of Excellence, the BioInnovation Institute has secured multiple highly regarded academic and clinical hires, helping the BioInnovation Institute realize synergies among partner institutions, and strengthening an already strong presence in the biomaterials space.

Since the Knight Foundation grant award in September 2008, institution partners have hired 14 new basic and translational researchers in BioInnovation Institute-designated areas, with 10 more approved and open positions with active searchers. Furthermore, the BioInnovation Institute has approved funding for 40 additional positions in the coming months.

Within the breadth of research currently underway at the BioInnovation Institute are three core areas of study, including:

  • Developing peptide functionalized 3D scaffolds for tissue engineering for both ex-vivo applications such as the growth of artificial skin, cartilage, and tendon for implantation in patients, as well as in-vivo scaffold development to ultimately re-grow highly complex organs such as kidneys and pancreas to treat diabetic patients.
  • Investigating nanoparticles that could be used to image, diagnosis, or treat diseases. For example, Dr. Alamgir Karim, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Professor in Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron (UA), is investigating magnetic nanoparticles that hold the potential to self-organize into strings and can then be collectively heated in order to more effectively kill certain cells, like cancer, under the influence of external oscillating magnetic fields.
  • Developing combinatorial screening platforms to optimize biomaterials for multiple parameters of human biocompatibility. Dr. Karim, along with Dr. Matthew Becker, associate professor of polymer science at UA, is working to develop these approaches to rapidly screen polymers for directing cell function, biocompatibility, mechanical response, temperature sensitivity, and immunogenicity.

These efforts hold the promise of organ regeneration as well as one-step disease diagnosis treatment, and speak to the caliber of research taking place at the BioInnovation Institute.

In Celebration: Becoming the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, one of the nation’s foremost philanthropic organizations, served as the catalyst for the development of the BioInnovation Institute from concept to reality, bring the operating partners together and supporting the initiative with a $20 million grant.

The partnership between Knight Foundation and the BioInnovation Institute was spearheaded by W. Gerald Austen, M.D., chairman of Knight Foundation, Akron native and world-renowned heart surgeon.

In honor of the philanthropic efforts of both Dr. W. Gerald Austen and his wife Patricia R. Austen and in recognition of Knight Foundation’s ongoing commitment to the city of Akron, Knight Foundation and BioInnovation Institute board of directors voted to name the Institute the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron.

“Naming the BioInnovation Institute after the Austens highlights our commitment to the Institute and to the cause of creating transformational change in the city of Akron,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of Knight Foundation. “By aligning the Austen name with the BioInnovation Institute, we will increase the visibility of the Institute and leverage the world-renowned Austen reputation.”

An internationally recognized heart surgeon, Austen retired as the chief of the Surgical Services at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital in 1997 after serving 29 years in that role. He continues as the Edward D. Churchill Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital. Austen has authored or co-authored over 400 original articles, 51 chapters and four textbooks.

Looking Ahead

With a commitment to set a new trajectory for regional economic growth, and a vision of becoming a national leader in the biomaterials field, the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron is rapidly advancing its agenda. Moving forward, plans include:

  • Continuing to add first-rate talent from around the world to the already strong, existing core intellectual property present in Akron
  • Growing entrepreneurial opportunities through increased investment by national firms into regional biomedical start-ups and early-stage companies
  • Extending R&D capabilities by growing annual biomaterials-related research funding
  • Broadening employment opportunities for regional residents

Working collaboratively, the BioInnovation Institute is poised to continue to empower the region’s academic, medical, research and industrial organizations to take their rightful place as leaders in biomaterial and medical innovation.

About the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron
The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron is transforming Akron into a model for biomedical discovery and enterprise. Together, the five operating founders of the Institute — Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM), Summa Health System and The University of Akron — have a world-class reputation in research, education and health. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation along with the State of Ohio joined the operating founders as founding members of the Institute. Through the collaboration of these complementary institutions, the goal of this initiative is to expand Akron’s rich legacy in materials science to pioneer the next generation of life-enhancing and life-saving innovation for the 21st Century. For more information, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change.