Peter Zandstra, Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2010
For pioneering work in the development of stem cell biology and its clinical application.

Allogene, Notch Partner to Develop iPSC-Derived Blood Cancer Therapies

Via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | November 5, 2019

Allogene Therapeutics will partner with Notch Therapeutics to research and develop induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) AlloCAR™ therapies for initial blood cancer indications that include non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma, the companies said today, through an exclusive worldwide collaboration and license agreement that could generate more than $300 million for Notch.

Under their partnership, Allogene and Notch plan to create allogeneic cell therapy candidates from T cells or natural killer (NK) cells using Notch’s Engineered Thymic Niche (ETN) platform, created to offer potential flexibility and scalability for the production of stem cell-derived immune cell therapies… Continue reading.

U of T Engineering research paves way for an off-the-shelf supply of cells for immunotherapy

Via University of Toronto | May 25, 2017

Bioengineering and professional soccer may not have much in common at first glance, but Nafees Rahman (ChemE 0T7, ChemE & IBBME PhD 1T7) sees a clear link between the career path he chose and his childhood dream.

“Soccer is a team sport and research is also about a team — you can never do it by yourself,” says Rahman, who recently completed his research in the laboratory of Professor Peter Zandstra at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering and will receive his PhD during June convocation.

Rahman specializes in making new blood from scratch as a potential source of cells for life-saving treatments. Together, he and Shreya Shukla (IBBME PhD 1T7), another student from Zandstra’s lab who will receive her PhD next month, have developed new technologies that clear some of the barriers to having a limitless source of cells to target cancer and other diseases. These breakthroughs, described in two recent papers published in Nature Communications and Nature Methods and funded by Medicine by Design and the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, could lead to new cell therapies for boosting patients’ immune systems against disease, and for cancer immunotherapy, in which immune cells can be engineered to attack tumours… Continue reading.

Peter Zandstra named University Professor, U of T’s Highest Academic Rank

Via U. Toronto | June 3, 2016

Peter Zandstra, professor in the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering, has been appointed to the rank of University Professor. This is U of T’s highest academic rank, recognizing unusual scholarly achievement and pre-eminence in a particular field of knowledge. The number of such appointments is limited to two per cent of the University’s tenured faculty.

Zandstra is a pioneer in the field of stem cell bioengineering, an area that applies engineering principles to stem cell biology. His research focuses on understanding how complex communication networks between stem cells and their progeny influence self-renewal and differentiation, and how this information can be applied to the design of novel technologies capable of controlling cell fate. Zandstra’s work has advanced our understanding of stem cell developmental processes and led to the development of cutting-edge technologies for the growth and differentiation of stem cells. Direct applications of his work include tissue and cellular engineering, gene therapy and organ transplantation.

Beyond his own research, Zandstra has led several successful collaborative endeavours to advance bioengineering and biomedicine. He serves as Chief Scientific Officer of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, which recently received $20 million from the Canadian government, matched by $20 million from GE Healthcare, to establish and operate the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies. Zandstra is also the Executive Director of Medicine by Design, which received $114 million from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund – the largest grant in U of T’s history.

Prime Minister Backs Regenerative Medicine Research at U of T Engineering

Via U. Toronto | January 14, 2016

Regenerative medicine is the way of the future for Canadian health care, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, and two new initiatives are helping strengthen the commitment of U of T Engineering and its partners to stem cell research and manufacturing.Trudeau announced at the MaRS Discovery District on Jan. 13 that the federal government will give a $20 million grant to the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) to establish and operate a new Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies. At the same time, Vivek Goel, vice-president, research and innovation at U of T, announced that Professor Peter Zandstra (IBBME), chief scientific officer for the CCRM, has become the inaugural director of Medicine by Design.The CCRM is the commercial arm of Medicine by Design, a program created last year through a $114 million grant from the federal government.

Regenerative Medicine Conference Puts Spotlight nn U of T Engineers

Via U. Toronto | November 2, 2015

If you or someone you know has benefited from a bone marrow transplant, then you may be more knowledgeable about stem cells and regenerative medicine (RM) than you think.

Bone marrow transplants, a procedure used in treating cancer that has been around for the last 40 years, is just one of the applications of stem cell science. RM includes stem cells, biomaterials and molecules and it is used to repair, regenerate or replace diseased cells, tissues and organs.

“Regenerative medicine is exciting because it offers opportunities to learn about the fundamentals of tissue and organ development, form and (normal and diseased) function, as well as provide new strategies to treat and perhaps one day cure devastating degenerative diseases,” explains Peter Zandstra, an engineering professor at U of T’s Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and a leading member of the University of Toronto’s Medicine By Design initiative.

The Canadian RM community met in Toronto this week for its annual scientific conference: the Till & McCulloch Meetings, named for the University of Toronto researchers James Till and Ernest McCulloch who discovered transplantable stem cells in 1961.

U of T to Transform Regenerative Medicine with $114-million Federal Grant

Via U. Toronto | July 28, 2015

The University of Toronto is set to cement its position as one of the world’s leading centres for the design and manufacture of cells, tissues and organs that can be used to treat degenerative disease, thanks to a $114-million grant from the federal government.

“Our government is investing in research and innovation to create jobs, strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life of Canadians,” said the Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology). “This legacy investment in Medicine by Design will harness Canada’s strengths in regenerative medicine to treat and cure serious injuries and diseases that impact every Canadian family while creating new opportunities for Canadian health-related businesses.”

The research grant, the largest in U of T’s history, is the first to be awarded under the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), established by the federal government last year. Spread over seven years, the funding will allow U of T and its partners, which include the Hospital for Sick Children, the University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital, to deliver a new program called Medicine by Design.The initiative and the new funding build on years of support for U of T’s regenerative medicine researchers from federal granting councils, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and support from the Canada Research Chairs and Canada Excellence Research Chairs programs.


“This program will allow us to take regenerative medicine to the next level,” said Peter Zandstra, a professor in U of T’s Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Engineering and one of the researchers involved with the Medicine by Design project. “We’ll be able to design cells, tissues, and organs from the ground up, hopefully with benefit to patients and benefit to the Canadian economy.

“Stem cells offer avenues to treat — and perhaps cure — devastating and costly illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, blindness, lung disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and diseases of the blood and musculoskeletal system,” he added. “Medicine by Design provides a framework to design the cells, the materials and, ultimately, the clinical strategy needed to reach this goal.”

Behind the scenes of Medicine By Design

Via U. Toronto | July 28, 2015

More than 50 researchers and clinicians at the University of Toronto and its partner hospitals are participating in Medicine By Design, the new centre for regenerative medicine announced on July 28, 2015.

The centre, which builds on decades of U of T research dating back to the demonstration of the existence of stem cells by James Till and Ernest McCulloch, will design and manufacture cells, tissues and organs to treat degenerative disease.

Among its experts are Professor Peter Zandstra (IBBME), one of the key leaders, and Professor Molly Shoichet (IBBME, ChemE) of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Both Shoichet and Zandstra work with stem cells, which have the ability to become any type of cell in the human body, and could one day be used to repair or replace damaged tissues.

“The bar is very high, but if you’re going to dedicate yourself to something, you might as well shoot for the stars,” Shoichet says.

Writer Tyler Irving spoke with Shoichet and Zandstra about how Medicine by Design will change lives.

U of T’s New Translational Biology and Engineering Program

Via U. Toronto | April 28, 2015

Researchers from the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) continue to build on the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering’s unparalleled strengths in biomedical engineering with the establishment of the Translational Biology and Engineering Program (TBEP)—a key component of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research (TRCHR).

TBEP will occupy an entire floor of the MaRS Phase 2 building in Toronto’s Discovery District beginning in fall 2015. It will be a powerful addition to the network of researchers and educators at the TRCHR aiming to accelerate treatment development and reduce the estimated $2.3-billion cost of managing moderate and severe heart failure patients in Canada.

Ten U of T researchers and their graduate students from U of T Engineering, the Faculty of Dentistry and the Faculty of Medicine will work side-by-side in the open and collaborative research space to advance clinical applications in genomic medicine, regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and advanced cardiac care.

“The idea of creating an inter-disciplinary research centre focused on discovery and clinical translation in the area of cardiovascular disease is really exciting,” said Peter Zandstra (IBBME), interim scientific director at the TRCHR. “Although there are inter-disciplinary research centres in different places, one that is exclusively focused on heart failure and cardiovascular disease like this one is unique internationally and should enable accelerated outcomes and focused impact.”

Ted Sargent and Peter Zandstra named Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada – U of T Engineering News

Via U. of Toronto | September 11, 2014

Professor Zandstra, of the Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), was elected to the Academy of Science in the Applied Science and Engineering Division. Zandstra is a pioneer in the field of stem cell bioengineering, an area that applies engineering principles to stem cell biology. He has discovered new ways to grow stem cells in clinically-relevant bioreactors and used mathematical modeling to study stem cell behaviour. He has also employed micro-fabrication technologies to generate functional human stem cell-derived cardiac micro-tissues. Zandstra’s work has advanced our understanding of difficult-to-access developmental processes and catalyzed development of novel cell-based technologies.

“Professors Sargent and Zandstra’s groundbreaking research contributions have earned them reputations as leaders in their fields, not just in Canada but on a global level,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “Their remarkable achievements exemplify the calibre and impact of the research conducted by our faculty members. On behalf of the Faculty, I congratulate them on this richly deserved honour.”

Engineering Safer Drugs and Skin Grafts With Grand Challenges Canada Grants

Via U. Toronto Engineering | September 10, 2014

In Canada, the pharmaceutical drugs we find at the pharmacy are rarely cause for concern. We don’t worry about what has been added or if they’ve turned toxic because of improper storage.

But according to researchers at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), other areas of the world aren’t so fortunate – and that needs to change.

Professor Peter Zandstra (IBBME) and PhD students Yonatan Lipsitz (IBBME PhD 1T6) and Nimalan Thavandiran (IBBME PhD) are one of two groups at IBBME that were recently awarded Grand Challenges Canada grants. The team is developing a new tool for drug sellers to test heart medication for additives or other problems.

The federal grant program encourages top researchers to use scientific or technical, social and business innovation to address some of the most pressing global health challenges.