John Brash

Affiliated Society: Canadian Biomaterials Society
Country of Residence: Canada
Current Position: Distinguished University Professor


Professor John Brash obtained his PhD from the University of Glasgow. He joined McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, in 1972, was promoted to full professor in 1976, and became a Distinguished University Professor in 2001. He served as Chair of the department of Chemical Engineering and was the founding Director of the McMaster School of Biomedical Engineering.

He has been a visiting professor at several universities and research institutions:

Centre de Recherches sur les Macromolecules, CNRS, Strasbourg, France 1978-79;

Université Paris XIII, Paris 1986-87;

Linköping Univ., Linköping, Sweden 1994;

CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia 2001;

Soochow University Suzhou, China 2010-

His research is in the biomaterials and biocompatibility area with emphasis on materials for use in blood contact. These are required for devices such as vascular grafts, coronary stents, and prosthetic heart valves. Both mechanistic and materials development work have been pursued. The behaviour of proteins at interfaces is an important continuing emphasis.

Professor Brash is the author of over 300 publications, including books, book chapters, and refereed journal papers.  He is an editor of Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces and is a member of the Editorial Board of several journals in the biomaterials-biointerfaces area.

His honours include:

  • Chair, Gordon Research Conference on Biocompatibility and Biomaterials, 1993.
  • Clemson Award for Basic Research, U.S. Society for Biomaterials, 1994.
  • Fellow Biomaterials Science and Engineering, FBSE, 1996.
  • Honorary doctorate, Docteur Honoris Causa, Université Paris XIII (Paris Nord), 1996.
  • Fellow Royal Society of Canada, FRSC, 2004.
  • Founders Award, US Society for Biomaterials, 2009.
  • Chair Professor, Soochow University, Suzhou, China, 2010.
  • C.P. Sharma Award, Indian Society for Biomaterials and Artificial Organs, 2016.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Biomaterials Society, 2016.

Areas of research interest:
Professor Brash has worked on biomaterials and biocompatibility, with emphasis on materials for use in blood contact. Both fundamental work and materials development have been pursued. Fundamental work includes extensive studies of protein-surface interactions and platelet-surface interactions. Applied work includes pioneering efforts in the development of biomedical polyurethanes. Extensive work on anti-fouling surfaces based on incorporation of poly(ethylene oxide) and other hydrophilic polymers has also been carried out. Collaborative research has been undertaken with many different labs around the world, including labs in Canada, USA, Germany, France, Sweden, Australia, China and Japan.

Some highlights:

  • Our work drew attention to the ubiquity and fundamental importance of protein-surface interactions in biomaterials applications. This has been an important continuing theme in our work which has stimulated much interesting and important research in labs around the world.
  • We have been involved in the discovery and elucidation of a number of important phenomena in relation to protein-surface interactions: irreversibility of adsorption resulting from multivalent attachment; self-exchange between surface and solution; surface-solution exchange in multi-protein systems (the Vroman effect) and its role in competitive adsorption, in particular from blood; mechanisms of resistance to protein adsorption (especially for polyethylene oxide-modified surfaces); protein adsorption from plasma and blood, including determination of the complex äóìproteomeäó of adsorbed proteins.
  • We were among the first to report on the relation between protein adsorption and cell adhesion, specifically in the case of platelet adhesion from blood via interactions of adsorbed fibrinogen and integrin receptors on platelets.  The cell-adsorbed protein connection has turned out to be one of the (few) general principles in all of biomaterials and has provided rationale and guidance for many approaches in materials development.
  • We have evolved a general principle for the design of biocompatible materials based on: (a) prevention of nonspecific protein adsorption, e.g. by modification with hydrophilic polymers such as polyethylene oxide, (b) promotion of the adsorption of specific proteins that will impart a desired bioactivity, e.g. the selective adsorption of plasminogen and tissue plasminogen activator from blood to promote clot lysis, or of antithrombin to inhibit coagulation.

Research keywords:
Biomaterials Education, Surface Characterization and Modification