Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Past Winner
2018 NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships

E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

Department of Chemical Engineering

McMaster University

Health care is no stranger to innovation. Medical professionals and biomedical scientists are constantly on the lookout for better, safer, cheaper and more effective methods to treat patients. In the 21st century, sophisticated hydrogels present some of the greatest opportunities to make life easier for patients and health care professionals alike. While hydrogels have been used in wound dressings and contact lenses for decades, only recently have we learned how to harness the potential of hydrogels and their high-tech cousins, nanogels, to transform treatments for serious illnesses.

Todd Hoare, a researcher at McMaster University, is a renowned expert in the development of “smart” hydrogels and nanogels. Hoare’s lab has already overcome a major challenge for these gels – namely, devising hydrogels that can be injected into a person but then degrade after treatment has run its course. Now, he and his team are working toward developing “on-demand” hydrogels that can be triggered to shrink or swell by a safe and non-invasive stimulus like a magnet or low-power ultrasound. These gels could transform the way some common treatments are administered. Think of patients who need to be connected to a morphine drip for pain after surgery, or diabetics who need to take daily insulin shots. How much easier would it be for these individuals to receive a single injection that can then be activated painlessly to release a dose when and where it is needed?

In most cases, patients receiving hydrogel treatments would require fewer trips to their doctor for basic procedures and would experience greater comfort and mobility while recovering. Hoare and his team continue to find new applications, including printable sensors that help to accelerate the rate of new drug discovery, tissue scaffolds that help to regenerate functional skin and avoid scarring after injury, and agricultural delivery devices that help plants to better survive extreme weather conditions. These innovations are improving Canadian lives.

Todd Hoare
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