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The Michael Smith Laboratories Welcomes a New Director

By July 14, 2017No Comments

The Michael Smith Laboratories is delighted to announce the newly appointed Professor Peter Zandstra as its Director. Zandstra is a pioneer in the field of stem cell bioengineering, applying engineering principles to stem cell biology. His research group aims to understand the complex communication networks between stem cells and their progeny and how they affect self-renewal and differentiation. Zandstra’s research has led to the design of novel technologies capable of controlling cell fate and improving growth and differentiation of stem cells. This work has direct application to the fields of tissue and cellular engineering, gene therapy, and organ transplantation. Fittingly, Zandstra has been involved in several successful collaborative endeavours, beyond his own research, to advance the field of bioengineering and biomedicine.

Zandstra comments about his time in the Biotechnology Laboratory (renamed the MSL), at UBC, where he completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Jamie Piret and Dr. Connie Eaves

There was a collaborative feeling among its members, a positive collegium that created an environment fostering interactions. When the Biotechnology Laboratory was established in 1987, it was ahead of its time as Canada’s first interdisciplinary biotechnology unit. Over the years, it has continued to be the crown jewel of Canadian research initiatives. Now more and more world leading institutes are set up in a similar fashion as to the MSL. Since its inception, the field of biology and technology has come a long way with regards to fundamental discovery and ensuring discovery translation. My goal is to maintain the success of the MSL by continuing to being early innovators and participating in large high-impact initiatives.

Zandstra comments on his new leadership role as MSL Director

The MSL has a great opportunity to crystalize its role on campus for excellent training, discovery, and translation in biotechnology. The outstanding research done in the MSL provides a foundation for impact. Building on this I look forward to rallying the MSL around areas where there is synergy between our individual strengths, and focusing on areas of the greatest need and impact. This will allow us to continue with Michael Smith’s original vision.

Zandstra comments on his move from the University of Toronto to UBC

I am very grateful for outstanding colleagues and opportunities I had at the University of Toronto. I am hopeful that my links across Canada can benefit our activities at the MSL and we can build and participate in programs of national and international significance.  I very much look forward to building a curious, fun and productive research team at UBC over the next few years.

Final comments he would like to share with the current faculty, staff, and students of the MSL

I am looking forward to getting to know the people and to find out more about their work, thoughts and opinions about the future of the MSL. It is an honour that I have the opportunity to help shape the direction of the MSL, and encourage its members to take an active role in building our next legacy.

Zandstra graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University. He then moved on to the University of British Columbia to pursue his PhD studies in the Department of Chemical and Bio-Resource Engineering. After his dissertation, Zandstra continued his research as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioengineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the guidance of Doug Lauffenburger. In 1999, Zandstra was appointed to the University of Toronto in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, with cross appointments to the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. In 2009, Zandstra was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering. He is also a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Society of Canada. Since 2016 he has been appointed as a Professor at UBC in the Departments of Medical Genetics and Chemical and Biological Engineering.

You can follow Dr. Peter Zandstra on Twitter @PZandstra