BME Leadership Seminar: Synthetic Molecular Chaperones for Trauma Resuscitation


3:00 pm-4:00 pm
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Raphael C. Lee, MS(BmE), MD, ScD, FACS

Paul and Allene Russell Distinguished Service Professor Director, Laboratory for Molecular Regeneration Pritzker School of Medicine, Fellow, Pritzker Institute for Molecular Engineering The University of Chicago

Synthetic Molecular Chaperones for Trauma Resuscitation

Biological cells are able to survive changes in environmental stress conditions by control of the biosynthesis of molecules that repair nucleic acids, chaperone refolding of proteins and sealing disrupted cell membranes to achieve successful balance between injury and repair. These repair molecules are stress proteins. If there is a sudden increase in stress that is beyond normal cellular repair capabilities, then injury and possible cell death occurs.

My research has focused on determining the molecular mechanics and effectiveness of amphiphilic block copolymers that mimic some of the actions of small molecular stress proteins in augmenting intrinsic cell repair capabilities when needed to enhance survival following acute trauma injury. This lecture will discuss the discoveries made by my research team toward developing this new category of trauma therapeutics.


Dr. Lee, the Paul and Allene Russell Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine at The University of Chicago. In addition, he is a Fellow in the Institute for Molecular Engineering and directs the Laboratory for Molecular Regeneration at the University. He is also a founder and Chairman, Board of Directors of Avocet Polymer Technologies, Inc., Renacyte BioMolecular Technologies, Inc., Electrokinetic Signal Research and of Maroon Biotech, Inc., and the Chicago Electrical Trauma Rehabilitation Institute. His background includes general surgery residency at the University of Chicago and plastic surgery residency at the Harvard University-Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Lee also completed a combined MD/MS(BmE) at Temple-Drexel Universities and a doctoral (ScD) dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Harvard-MIT Health Science and Technology Program). Subsequently, he served on the faculties of Harvard University, M.I.T. and Chicago.

Dr. Lee’s career research interests have focused on the molecular pathogenesis of trauma injuries and repair, regulation of scar formation, and advancing regenerative reconstructive surgery. Dr. Lee’s research group has been recognized for fundamental characterization of the molecular biophysics of electrical shock injuries, ionizing irradiation and thermal trauma. In 1992, Dr. Lee’s laboratory reported a clinically applicable method to seal disrupted cell membranes following trauma using amphiphilic copolymers that has been widely validated and offers promise to preserve tissue viability following injury such as burns and military trauma. Most recently, his block copolymer research has been extended to formulation of synthetic chaperones that are effective in restoring function to denatured and aggregated proteins that have important implications in tissue preservation and thermal trauma. In addition Dr. Lee and surgery residents were first to describe obturator sensate fasciocutaneous flaps for con-genital and acquired perineal deformities. Dr. Lee’s research has resulted in new therapeutics that has led to the establishment of three biotechnology companies. He chaired the University of Chicago president’s advisory committee for technology transfer and commercialization. He is now promoting strategies nationally to establish technology companies in economically undeveloped communities.

Regarding international outreach, Dr. Lee received the ‘Key to the City” of Shanghai award for facilitating the development of a national center for the treatment of electrical injuries. He also directed a World Health Organization Radiation Program sub-committee to determine the health economic impact of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the country of Belarus. In 1999, he received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina for the Chernobyl related investigation. Dr. Lee now serves on the American College of Surgeon’s Operation Giving Back Committee, a program to augment surgical training in developing nations.

Regularly listed as a“ Top Surgeons” by several American publications and included as one of “America’s brightest Scientists under the age of 40” by Science Digest, Dr. Lee has received more than 30 professional awards including being named an American College of Surgeons Schering Scholar (1978), MacArthur Prize Fellow (1981), a Searle Scholar (1985) and a Bucksbaum Institute Senior Clinical Scholar. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons (AAPS), Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Biomedical Engineering Society, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), American Surgical Association, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (USA) and the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE). He also served on the NIH (NIBIB) Strategic Planning Council and the Board of IAMBE. Notable awards include: the James Barrett Brown Award from the AAPS for “advancing knowledge in the field of Plastic Surgery”; The American Electrical Power Association Award for “Advancing Electrical Safety and Health”; and AIMBE’s Pierre Galletti Award for advancing the field of biomedical engineering.

Dr. Lee has also been named “distinguished alumnus” by three universities. Dr. Lee has served as President of: The Society for Physical Regulation in Biology and Medicine; the Drexel 100; The Quadrangle Club; Midwestern Association of Plastic Surgeons, and American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He is a Trustee of Drexel University and serves on the board of several corporations. His laboratory, consistently funded for 30 years, attracted more than $25 million in research grants. He has authored and co-authored more than 250 publications, 4 books and more than 16 patents.


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Dr. Christine Schmidt