William R. Wagner Named Director of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Issue Date: 
April 4, 2012
William R. WagnerWilliam R. Wagner

William R. Wagner, professor of surgery in Pitt’s School of Medicine and of bioengineering and chemical engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School, has been named director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a joint effort of Pitt and UPMC, effective immediately. Rocky S. Tuan, the Arthur J. Rooney Professor in Sports Medicine and executive vice chair for research, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the Pitt School of Medicine, has been named associate director.

Wagner, who has served as interim director since September 2011 and has been a deputy director at the McGowan Institute since its establishment in 2001, is an expert in biomaterials and polymer chemistry whose current research efforts focus on repair of damaged cardiovascular tissues.

“He has long held a leadership role at not only the McGowan Institute, but also globally in the fields of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering,” said Arthur S. Levine, dean, of the School of Medicine, and senior vice chancellor for the health sciences at Pitt. “I am delighted to have the experience and expertise of Dr. Wagner at the helm of the McGowan Institute to continue its mission of exploring the vast potential of these approaches to develop innovative treatments for our most challenging medical problems.”

Wagner, who succeeds Alan Russell, founding director of the McGowan Institute and executive director of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, joined the Pitt faculty in 1991. He is the editor-in-chief of Acta Biomaterialia; deputy director and scientific leader for the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center at Pitt; past president of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs and current executive board member of the International Federation of Artificial Organs; a chief scientific officer for the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) Wake Forest University-University of Pittsburgh consortium; and cofounder of Neograft Technologies, Inc.

Wagner completed his doctorate in chemical engineering in 1991 at the University of Texas, Austin, and his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1986 at Johns Hopkins University.

“I am delighted to have this extraordinary opportunity to lead one of the premier regenerative medicine research centers,” Wagner said. “I am especially pleased to be working closely with Dr. Tuan, who will hold the new position of associate director. His extensive background in stem cell biology and tissue engineering is a great asset to the McGowan Institute.”

Tuan joined the faculty in 2009 and will continue to be the director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He also is codirector of the Wake Forest-Pitt AFIRM Consortium.

“I am extremely excited about joining the McGowan Institute and the partnership with Dr. Wagner,” Tuan said. “I look forward to developing a research infrastructure that aims to synergize life science and engineering technologies for the restoration of structure and function to diseased and injured organs and tissues.”

Prior to joining Pitt, Tuan was chief of the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. He received his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College and Berea College, his doctorate in 1977 from Rockefeller University, and postdoctoral training in Harvard Medical School.

A 2004 recipient of the Marshall Urist Award for Excellence in Tissue Regeneration Research of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Tuan is internationally known for his research in stem cell biology and musculoskeletal tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and for his innovative leadership role in biomedical education. He is editor of the developmental biology journal BDRC: Embryo Today and the founding editor-in-chief of Stem Cell Research and Therapy; a board of councilors member of the American Society for Matrix Biology and Tissue Engineering and the Regenerative Medicine International Society-Americas; and a scientific advisory council member of the Regenerative Medicine Foundation.

“The knowledge and skills of Drs. Wagner and Tuan will further enhance the already stellar reputation of the McGowan Institute as a place where revolutionary biomedical therapies are born and come to fruition,” Levine said.

The McGowan Institute serves as a base of operations for 230 of the University’s leading scientists and clinical faculty working in the areas of tissue engineering, cellular therapies, and artificial and biohybrid organ devices.