Tejal Desai, Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2012
For her seminal contributions to for innovative drug delivery technology.

Desai named to National Academy of Engineering

Via Brown University | February 7, 2024

Brown Engineering Dean receives one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has elected Brown University Sorensen Family Dean of Engineering Tejal A. Desai to its newest membership class, honoring her distinguished contributions to engineering, “for nanofabricated materials to control biologics delivery, and leadership in the fields of nanotechnology and regenerative medicine.” Membership in the NAE is considered one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer and Desai’s selection brings to six the number of current Brown faculty members in the NAE.

“I am deeply honored by this recognition, and am grateful for all my colleagues and trainees who have supported me over my career,” said Desai… Continue reading.

Accomplished biomedical engineer, academic leader named Brown School of Engineering dean

Via Brown University | January 12, 2022

Tejal Desai, a professor and researcher who has led academic programs at the University of California San Francisco, Boston University and elsewhere, will work to expand collaborative engineering research and teaching.

Tejal Desai, an accomplished biomedical engineer and academic leader who earned a bachelor’s degree with Brown’s Class of 1994, has been appointed the next dean of Brown University’s School of Engineering.

An expert in applying micro- and nanoscale technologies to create new ways to deliver medicine to targeted sites in the human body, Desai is a professor and a former longtime chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California San Francisco, and inaugural director of UCSF’s Health Innovations Via Engineering (HIVE) initiative… Continue reading.

ARPA-H Listening Session

Via AIMBE | August 11, 2021

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am here in my capacity as President of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), an organization representing over 35,000 bioengineers from academia, industry, and government, to advance medical and biological engineering for societal impact. I am also professor and chair of bioengineering at UCSF, where I have seen firsthand the impact of rapid technology development for preventing and combatting disease and addressing healthcare disparities.

I am heartened by the amazing progress that has been made over the past 18 months in accelerating fundamental biological and bioengineering discoveries to transformative biomedical technologies and lifesaving treatments. Whether it was prototyping and testing advanced PPE for healthcare workers, realizing nanoscale sensors for high sensitivity point of care diagnostic testing, or building on years of research in lipid nanoparticles to enable our highly effective mRNA vaccines to reach target cells in the body, engineering technologies have played a key role in biomedical innovation. What we have realized is that true breakthroughs do not often come from one discovery alone, but rather bringing together numerous advances from different fields to achieve a transformative goal. That is where bioengineers thrive – at the intersection of fields, at the intersection of basic and translational science, identifying gaps and proposing solutions… Continue reading.

Tejal Desai Named Director of UCSF Health Innovation Via Engineering Program

Via UCSF | February 15, 2019

A new initiative at UC San Francisco will bring together engineers to tackle some of the most urgent challenges in health.

The Health Innovation Via Engineering (HIVE) program will be led by Tejal Desai, PhD, the chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine.

“From nanoscale sensors that monitor biological changes in the body to engineered tissues for organ replacement, engineering can play a critical role in revolutionizing diagnostics, treatments and cures,” said Desai, who is the Ernest L. Prien Endowed Professor. “We hope this initiative will strengthen and expand our growing community of engineers across UCSF and allow us to work effectively and collaboratively to create transformative engineering innovations for health… Continue reading.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Via UC San Francisco | November 21, 2017

Glaucoma, which affects over 60 million people worldwide, can seem easy to treat: medicated eye drops can be used to ease the buildup of fluid in the eye that underlies the condition. If glaucoma is caught early, eye drops can prevent irreversible blindness.

But prescription eye drops aren’t the perfect solution for glaucoma. Many elderly patients who suffer from glaucoma struggle to take their eye drops on time, which is required up to three times a day. And even when patients comply with this intensive eye drop schedule, much of the medication drains into the patient’s blood, missing its target inside the eye.

Those problems could be part of the past, thanks to a device developed in the lab of Tejal Desai, PhD. The tiny implant promises to simplify how glaucoma drugs are administered, making life easier for aging patients… Continue reading.

Innovative Type 1 Diabetes Approach Licensed to Encellin

Via UC San Francisco | October 18, 2017

Encellin, a San Francisco–based biotechnology company, has obtained exclusive worldwide rights from UC San Francisco for a proprietary cell encapsulation technology aimed at improving physicians’ ability to perform cell transplants without the need for immunosuppressive drugs.

Based on ongoing preclinical trials in animal models, the technology – in the form of a pouch approximately the diameter of a quarter, made of an ultrathin nanoporous membrane – represents a significant advance towards the ability to transplant donated cells without danger of immune rejection or harmful fibrosis at the transplant site, while also ensuring that transplanted cells cannot infiltrate other parts of the body.

Encellin first aims to apply this technology – originally developed in the laboratory of Tejal Desai, PhD, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences in UCSF’s schools of Pharmacy and Medicine – to treat type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease affecting over 1 million Americans, with over 9,000 young people newly diagnosed each year.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the loss of the islet cells of the pancreas, which normally secrete the hormone insulin to coordinate the body’s use of blood glucose. The transplantation of functional, insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells from a donor has shown clinical efficacy as a treatment for some people with type 1 diabetes, but – like most transplantation techniques – this treatment requires lifelong immunosuppression to prevent patient immune systems from destroying the donor cells. However, these immunosuppression drugs also make patients susceptible to heightened risk of infection, cancer, and organ damage… Continue reading.

5 UCSF Faculty Elected to the National Academy of Medicine for 2015

Via UCSF | October 19, 2015

Five UC San Francisco faculty members are among the 70 new members elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly known as the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The 70 new regular members and 10 international members were announced at the institute’s 45th annual meeting on Monday.

The announcement recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the fields of health and medicine, and is considered one of the highest honors in these disciplines. With Monday’s announcement, a total of 97 people from UCSF are now members of the NAM.

“These five new members represent an amazing diversity of research and contributions to global health and science, and I am proud of each one of them,” said Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine.

Tejal Desai conducts cutting-edge research on micro- and nano-scale technologies for targeted drug delivery. Her lab at UCSF has developed nanostructured thin-film devices to deliver drugs to the eye, silicon nanowire-coated beads as adhesive drug-delivery vehicles to the gut, and other microscopic devices. In ongoing studies, her lab is focused on ways to reduce inflammation following surgery to repair arteries or insert stents into blood vessels. Early in her career, Desai received the Visionary Science Award from the BioMEMS and Nanotechnology Society, and the Global Indus Technovator Award from MIT.

Tejal Desai Awarded Brown Engineering Alumni Medal | UC San Francisco

Via UCSF | June 19, 2015

Tejal A. Desai, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering & Therapeutic Sciences, was awarded the 2015 Brown Engineering Alumni Medal (BEAM) from Brown University’s School of Engineering at an Awards Dinner on May 23, in recognition of her career achievements in the field of engineering. She was honored in Alumnae Hall at Brown University, in the presence of many friends, colleagues, former professors, and her husband Dr. Sanjay Saxena.

Desai is an acknowledged world leader in therapeutic microscale and nanoscale technologies and is at the forefront of engineering the next generation of drugs, using the tools of semiconductor manufacturing from Silicon Valley to make miniscule medical devices that deliver a drug or multiple drugs directly to specific areas of concern. Results from her lab include the use of silicon nanowire coated silica beads as adhesive drug-delivery vehicles, especially to the human gut, the micro/nanoscale cage or biocapsule for controlled drug delivery, and nanostructured thin-film devices for controlled ocular drug delivery.

An elected fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and the Biomedical Engineering Society, Desai is also a recipient of the prestigious Paul Dawson Biotechnology Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). Early in her career, she was selected as one of the “Brilliant 10” Top Scientists in the Nation by Popular Science, received the Visionary Science Award from the BioMEMS and Nanotechnology Society, and the Global Indus Technovator Award from MIT.

Desai Named Chair of Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

Via UCSF News | July 23, 2014

Tejal Desai, PhD, has been named the new chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), a joint department within the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine. Her appointment is effective August 1.

“I am delighted Tejal will chair the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences,” said Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, who is also serving as School of Medicine Dean. “She has the vision, energy, and experience that will ensure the department continues to thrive.”

“Tejal’s willingness to serve as department chair is characteristic of her collegial approach to science and education,” added School of Pharmacy Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD. “She is an award-winning bioengineer and an accomplished teacher and administrator who has the deep respect of the faculty.  I’m very pleased Tejal has accepted the chair position.”

New Drug-Delivery System Will Improve Lives of Patients with Chronic Eye Diseases

Via UC San Francisco | October 14, 2013

Patients suffering from eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration benefit from the availability of highly effective medicines.

However, the methods for delivering these drugs to the eye keep patients trapped in a cycle of constant maintenance with monthly injections or cumbersome eye drops multiple times a day.

Robert Bhisitkul, MD, PhD, a professor of clinical opthamology at UC San Francisco, is all too familiar with this challenge and is working with Tejal Desai, PhD, professor of bioengineering and therapeutic sciences, on a solution to help improve the lives of patients.

LaunchPad, a project of UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, is designed to highlight the experiences and accomplishments of UCSF’s translational researchers, and to support them in their efforts to develop beneficial medical products.

“It’s a problem that has had only limited progress for decades and with Tejal’s technology we see a way to completely change this field,” says Bhisitkul. Desai works on the design, fabrication and use of advanced micro/nano biosystems, and has been developing a tiny, flexible, implantable film that is able to deliver conventional medicines and also complex antibody-based drugs used in retinal disease therapies.

Improving Health By Our Own Devices

Via UCSF Medical Center | November 26, 2012

Innovation can be born of necessity, conscience, creativity, luck, or more likely, all of the above, all at once. Whatever the impetus, the active ingredient of invention is collaboration.

The five scientists highlighted here — bioengineers Tejal Desai and Shuvo Roy, MD/PhD candidate Mozziyar Etemadi, microbiologist Joe DeRisi, and physician/surgeon Dr. Michael Harrison — trace intersecting paths, tapping each other’s expertise nearly constantly.

When technology and need collide, Harrison sees alliances with engineers as a portal to a new realm of efficacy. “When we have a problem and there’s a missing piece, we don’t just wonder if someone will come up with it someday,” says Harrison. “We just go out and do it, together.”

Tejal Desai receives Dawson Biotechnology Award

Via UC San Francisco | April 12, 2012

UCSF bioengineer Tejal Desai, PhD, will receive the 2012 Paul R. Dawson Biotechnology Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) at the group’s annual meeting in July.

The award honors Desai for her contributions to contemporary teaching and scholarship in biotechnology. She is a faculty member and vice chair for education of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine

UCSF Bioengineer Builds Miniscule Medical Implants to Treat Diseases

Via UC San Francisco | July 20, 2011

As a Santa Barbara high school student, UCSF bioengineer Tejal Desai  got a kick out of making things work. Her father was a chemical engineer, and she thought she knew what engineering was all about.

So, she was startled when a bioengineer visited her class and told the students about research to develop artificial organs and implants.

“I was very excited,” said Desai, PhD, a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences in the UCSF School of Pharmacy. “I had always thought that engineering was about building bridges and mechanical devices. I didn’t know you could use it to help people.”

The class visit was part of a national program to encourage girls to pursue engineering careers. The revelation about artificial organs started Desai on two paths. She not only became a bioengineer, but also an outspoken advocate for young women entering science and engineering fields.

UCSF Collaborates with Zcube to Develop New Ways to Deliver Drugs

Via UC San Francisco | February 28, 2011

A pill filled with microscopic, drug-laden adhesive patches is at the center of an agreement between UCSF and Zcube srl, the research corporate venture arm of Italian pharmaceutical leader Zambon Co., SpA, to license UCSF-developed microtechnology and support early research into new ways to deliver oral medications directly to a targeted site in the body.

This is the first sponsored research agreement between Zcube and UCSF, but is expected to be one of several such agreements with the biomedical university.

Two UCSF Scientists Put Their Discoveries to Work

Via UC San Francisco | July 19, 2010

Together, diabetes and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) drive billions of dollars in health care costs each year, while hampering quality of life and causing premature death in millions of people worldwide. Existing therapies, while helpful, are flawed.

Now two projects funded by the National Institutes of Health at UCSF’s Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences – one for an insulin pump, another for a wearable, artificial kidney – promise innovative therapies for both conditions.

The projects’ principal investigators – Tejal Desai, PhD, and Shuvo Roy, PhD – believe they are about five years away from clinical trials. Equally important, the advances in biomedical micro-electro-mechanical systems (bioMEMS) and nanotechnologies their projects represent have the potential to transform medicine in the same way that semiconductors transformed electronics.