Thilak Gunatillake

Affiliated Society: Australasian Society for Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering
Country of Residence: Australia
Current Position: Chief Research Scientist



Dr Thilak Gunatillake is a leading biomaterial scientist with world-wide reputation in the field of polyurethanes. He holds the position of Chief Research Scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Melbourne, Australia. Focus of Dr Gunatillake’s research has been and continues to be design and synthesis of polymers for biomedical applications. He has successfully made the transition from basic discovery research through the entire product development pipeline, and helped delivery of commercial products into the medical device market place. AorTech Biomaterials ( and PolyNovo Biomaterials ( are two spin off companies established from the technology developed under his leadership whilst employed with CSIRO. The Elast-Eon™ biostable polyurethanes developed under Dr Gunatillake’s leadership continue to perform well in clinical applications with over 4 million Elast-Eon based implants in humans. In 2008 he was awarded the title of “Fellow Biomaterials Science and Engineering (FBSE)” by the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering. And in 2015 he was admitted to the College of Fellows of American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). He was also the recipient of the Sir Ian McLelan Achievement for Industry Award in 2002, CSIRO medals for research achievement in 2003 and 2005, and a finalist in 2012 Eureka Prize. In 2004, he was appointed as the Chief Scientific Officer of PolyNovo Biomaterials to lead the research and development team to commercialize NovoSorb™biodegradable polyurethanes. He has received international recognition through technology innovations and valuable literature contributions to the understanding of structure-property relationships of polyurethanes and their effect on biostability/biodegradability as evidenced by his record of publications in international journals (70+) and international patents/applications families (25). He was the President of the Australasian Society for Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering from 2010 to 2012. His current research is focused on development of polymeric delivery systems for next generation gene-based therapeutics and development of electroactive biomaterials for medical implants.

Areas of research interest:

1. Synthetic polymers for delivery of emerging therapeutics for treatment of human, animal and plant diseases. Major focus is on delivery of gene-based therapeutics such as siRNA, dsRNA and mRNA for emerging infectious diseases in humans. Current research work is focused on adapting the delivery technology in animal and agriculture applications focused on preventing spread of viral infections in aquaculture farming and disease and weed management in agriculture fields.

2. Nanoparticle delivery systems: Improve fundamental understanding cellular uptake, trafficking and release mechanisms.

3. Application of controlled radical polymerisation techniques such as RAFT in developing delivery systems for controlled and targeted delivery of biopharmaceuticals and other active agents covering a broad range of applications in human, animal and plants.

4. Design & synthesis of polymers for next generation biomedical implants: Biostable polyurethanes, siloxane polymers and copolymers, electroactive biomaterials: target applications include heart valves, sensing & stimulation devices

5. Development of biodegradable polymers for tissue engineering applications:

a. Scaffold fabrication
b. Injectable polymer systems for minimally invasive procedures Major focus is in orthopaedic applications in particular, fracture fixation and bone regeneration employing advances in tissue engineering approaches.

6. Understanding interactions of synthetic polymers with biological tissues

a. Cell compatibility & proliferation
b. Biodegradation
c. In-vitro and in-vivo evaluation of biomaterials

7. Electroactive biomaterials: Development of biocompatible and processable conducting materials for applications in sensing and diagnostic applications. Major focus is in the development of composites of biostable polymers and conducting nanoparticles.

8. Technology commercialisation: Translation of laboratory developed technologies for scale-up and commercial production. Scale-up manufacture under controlled and well managed processes and co-development programs with industry for technology commercialisation and regulatory approval process.

9. Technology consulting: Strong track record in providing technical advice and consulting services to biomaterials industry and technology transfer.

10. Biomaterials education: Actively involved in training next generation researches through joint supervision of PhD students and training graduate students through collaborations with Australian Universities and research institutions.

Research keywords:

Biomaterials and Medical Products Commercialization, Nanotechnology, Orthopaedic Biomaterials, Polymers, Tissue Engineering, Cardiovascular Biomaterials, Drug Delivery