While working on her doctorate Molly Stevens attended a lecture that showed an image of a four-year old boy with terminal liver failure–and that picture inspired her to switch fields to biomaterials and regenerative medicine.
As a professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Stevens is also the Research Director for Biomedical Material Sciences in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College. Earning a doctorate in 2000 in biophysical investigations of specific bimolecular interactions and single biomolecule mechanics from the Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis at the University of Nottingham, Stevens spent a few years completing postdoctoral training in the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT before joining Imperial College in 2004.
Her research group at Imperial consists of students as well as postdocs and fellows and its members come from many different fields of study. The focus of the group is on high quality fundamental science and translation for human health. Regenerative medicine research happening in the lab includes the design of novel bioactive scaffolds, the directed differentiation of stem cells, and new approaches towards tissue regeneration. Developing novel approaches for tissue engineering Stevens is working toward being able to engineer large quantities of human mature bone for autologous transplantation–where the cell donor and recipient are the same person. It is hoped that this methodology can be used with other vital organs like the pancreas or liver for which other approaches have failed.
The Stevens group also works in the field of nanotechnology with current research efforts focused on exploiting specific bimolecular recognition and self-assembly mechanisms in order to create new nano-materials, drug delivery systems, and biosensors. By using peptide-functionalized nanoparticles for enzyme biosensing the group has been able to create the most sensitive facile enzyme detection to date which has applications across diseases ranging from cancer to HIV.
It is her hope that the techniques she and her research group develop will one day be able to fix failing organs in very young people and to detect infectious disease more quickly in global health applications.
Written by Angela Goad