Kevin Shakesheff, 32
University of Nottingham
The human immune system defends against foreign objects with vigilance, but Kevin Shakesheff wants to create lasting peace between synthetic surfaces and the biological world. He is building polymer scaffolds, on which living cells can grow, to form the backbones of what will one day be transplant-ready organs, as well as drug delivery vehicles that can steer themselves to target sites. That work began when the pharmaceutical sciences graduate spent a year in the lab of MIT bioengineering pioneer Robert Langer. He returned to the University of Nottingham in his native England to start his own lab. There, Shakesheff figured out how to incorporate stem cells as well as support cells that he calls the “unsung heroes” of tissue regeneration into biodegradable polymer structures for organs. Shakesheff is now using the technique to develop small polymer capsules that can deliver human cells to injury sites. Last year, the hard-working Shakesheff founded Regentec in Nottingham to commercialize his work. He’s forging agreements with pharmaceutical companies to mass- produce miniature tissue and organ samples for drug testing.