2020-2024 Steering Committee Candidate:

Michael Sefton


Dr. Sefton is University Professor and Michael E. Charles Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto. He was Director of the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto from 1999-2005 and President of the US Society For Biomaterials in 2006. He is currently Executive Director of Medicine by Design, http://mbd.utoronto.ca/. He has degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto (1971) and MIT (1974) and has been at the University of Toronto since 1974.


He has received the Acta Biomaterialia Gold award in 2011 and the Terumo Global Science prize in 2016 (among others). He was elected an international member of the US National Academy of Medicine in 2014 and the US National Academy of Engineering in 2020. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2018.


Dr. Sefton is regarded as a pioneer in tissue engineering and a leader in biomaterials, biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine. He was the first to recognize the importance of combining living cells with synthetic polymers to create “artificial” organs and tissues. He was also one of the first in the world that succeeded in micro-encapsulating live cells – with a view to creating an artificial pancreas and other tissues that could then evade the patient’s immune system through the barrier properties of the encapsulating membrane.

Vision & Purpose:

At its best the College of Fellows is a community of scholars of many nationalities and backgrounds, but all with a common purpose: to understand and use biomaterials, to create better medical devices and in our own way create new therapies that were hitherto unimaginable. We do this through our research and through our desire to prepare the next generation of biomaterial leaders. We do this by sharing our latest insights and by building on the insights of others.

I have been intrigued by how new movies and plays are created. Recapitulating the medieval roving bands of actors, such achievements, film critic A.O. Scott observed in The New York Times, are often the product of clusters of like-minded actors and directors who collaborate repeatedly to implement a theatrical vision. For example, he argued, Oskar “Eustis’s vision of the Public [Theatre, in New York] is of a kind of city within the city, a community open to new arrivals who settle in and stay for a long time. He likes to keep up with old friends and partners and to fold new talent into the mix.” Their creative products are “the fruits of that partnership, a fusion of complementary, but also distinctive, styles and sensibilities.”

I posit that biomaterials meetings are much the same and the role of the College of Fellows is to help ensure that that philosophy endures from community to community and within a geographically disparate world. Our world is built on collaborations and friendships, new and old.

In the same article referred to above, Scott quotes the actress and filmmaker Greta Gerwig in speaking of her artistic collaborations, “It’s like we’re standing on the beach picking up the same kind of rocks”. So lets make sure we can still grab those rocks.