Professor Molly Shoichet elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

December 14, 2022 by Safa Jinje

University Professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, BME, Donelly Centre, Chemistry) has been elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI)

A renowned researcher and expert in the study of materials for drug delivery and tissue regeneration, Shoichet was recognized by the NAI for creating outstanding inventions that have made a positive impact on the quality of life and welfare of society.  

“I’m so excited to be included among this august group of inventors. It’s truly an honour,” says Shoichet. “My researchers and I are motivated to make a difference and to advance fundamental discovery toward clinical impact.” 

Shoichet and her team of researchers use a cross-disciplinary approach that applies engineering, chemistry and biology to design innovative solutions to medical challenges. Through the work of this group, and of spinoff companies such as AmacaThera — a clinical-stage biotechnology company based on research from The Shoichet Lab — the team is transforming therapeutics to make them more effective. 

They have invented new ways to control therapeutic delivery based on novel affinity interactions and smart materials for use in oncology and pain. 

 “We also invented a more stable version of the therapeutic protein chondroitinase ABC and a way to deliver it,” says Shoichet. “Our approach overcomes key limitations of the inherent instability of the protein that has shown promise in promoting repair after spinal cord injury and stroke.”  

Through Synakis, another biotechnology company built from research in Shoichet’s lab, researchers have created ocular biomaterial solutions that aim to overcome eye diseases such as retinal detachment, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.  

Shoichet’s research achievements have been recognized through numerous awards and honours. She has been elected a fellow of all three of Canada’s National Academies. She is a member of the Order of Ontario and an Officer of the Order of Canada. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society, U.K.’s national academy of sciences, and is a foreign member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. 

Most recently, in 2021, she received the Chemical Institute of Canada Medal in recognition for her outstanding contributions to chemical engineering within Canada. In 2020, she was awarded the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science, Canada’s highest honour for science and engineering research.  

“In research, we have the opportunity to ask the ‘I wonder if’ questions that allow us to make discoveries, to answer questions in new ways and solve problems that were previously unsolved,” says Shoichet.   

“In asking these questions, we advance knowledge and sometimes that becomes a new invention that has commercial value. This leads us to patent our inventions that we hope will lead to new innovations and better solutions for patients.”    

“The advances that Professor Shoichet and her team have made in technologies of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and drug delivery are making a tremendous impact in medicine and in people’s lives,” says Christopher Yip, Dean of U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.  

“On behalf of the entire U of T Engineering community, congratulations to Molly on this well-deserved recognition.”