Drummond, who will assume the position in October, is currently an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, an associate biologist in the Nephrology Division at Massachusetts General Hospital and director of the kidney program of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
His vision calls for building on the institution’s reputation in kidney physiology — the laboratory was the site of many important discoveries in the field in the 20th century — and refining its focus on tissue repair and regeneration by establishing it as a center for research on the development of replacement kidney tissue and an artificial kidney.
“Regenerative medicine has reached an inflection point at which it will be able to take advantage of recent advances in tissue regeneration, stem cell biology and bioengineering to replace the kidney,” he said. “Because of the lab’s past history and its current expertise, it has a unique opportunity to lead this transformation.”
As senior scientist, Drummond will lead research in regenerative biology and aging (aging is the institution’s other research focus) using diverse animal models and cell systems to define the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying tissue and organ repair and regeneration and the extension of healthy lifespan.
The aim of research at the institution is to identify regenerative medicine therapies with the potential to treat devastating diseases and injuries, and to delay or reverse age-related degenerative disease. In 2013, it was designated a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“We are delighted that a scientist of Iain’s distinction will be leading our faculty,” said Hermann Haller, M.D., president of the MDI Biological Laboratory and an internationally renowned nephrologist who conducts research on replacement kidney issue. “Our talented young scientists will benefit from his vision, insight and experience.”
In his research, Drummond uses the common aquarium fish, the zebrafish, as a model to tackle one of the major challenges of building an artificial kidney: the need for connections to drain processed fluid from the organ. The study of how such connections develop in zebrafish offers insight into how to create them in artificial organs.
He is part of an NIH-funded consortium of kidney scientists representing institutions from across the country called “(Re) Building a Kidney (RBK)” whose goal is to identify strategies to repair and regenerate nephrons, which are the key functional units of the kidney, and to engineer a biological artificial kidney.
Though Drummond will not assume his position until October, he will be on the MDI Biological Laboratory campus this summer to conduct research with three other members of the RBK consortium on kidney organoids, which are three-dimensional mini-organs that can be used to model kidney disease and potentially scaled to create an artificial kidney.
Like Haller, who is committed to expanding the institution’s summer visiting scientist program, Drummond would like to establish the MDI Biological Laboratory as a summer hub around which visiting RBK investigators can convene to share knowledge, trade ideas and collaborate on efforts to repair and regenerate kidney tissue.
“I see the lab becoming a summer sanctuary — a little piece of nirvana — where the cross fertilization of ideas among some of the best scientists in the world will lead to something new and great,” he says. “The idea that a place exists just for science in the midst of such a beautiful, unspoiled environment is unique and precious.”
About the MDI Biological Laboratory
We are pioneering new approaches to regenerative medicine focused on developing drugs that slow age-related degenerative diseases and activate our natural ability to heal. Our unique approach has identified potential therapies that could revolutionize the treatment of heart disease, muscular dystrophy and more. Through the Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation, we are preparing students for 21st century careers and equipping entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to turn discoveries into applications that improve human health and well-being. For more information, please visit mdibl.org.