Resident Faculty of the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials

While more than 25 faculty laboratories collaborate with the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials, the Center's resident faculty conducts the core research and provides the core technologies that support the Center's programs. For more information on the scientific projects led by these researchers please visit

Joachim Kohn
PhD, Weizmann Institute of Science
Director, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials
Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 
Joachim Kohn is a leader in biomaterials science and widely known for the development of tyrosine-derived, resorbable polymers, one of which is now used in an FDA-approved medical device. Kohn’s current research efforts focus on the development of a new “discovery paradigm” for revolutionary biomaterials using combinatorial and computational methods to optimize the composition and properties of biomaterials for specific applications, particularly tissue engineering and drug delivery. As a first demonstration of the utility of this approach, Kohn led a team of scientists who discovered an optimized polymer for use in a fully degradable cardiovascular stent  which has been tested in clinical trials in Germany and Brazil. Additional clinical trials are planned.

Carmine Iovine
MS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Assistant Research Professor 

Carmine Iovine was Global Group Vice President for Research and Development for the ICI Group and Corporate Vice President for R&D at National Starch & Chemical Corp. before joining the faculty of the Center.  He is an expert in the management of large research groups and the implementation of industry-academia interactions.  His research interests focus on the chemistry of natural and synthetic polymers, water-soluble polyelectrolytes, and in the application of these materials to delivery systems, hard tissue engineering; personal care for skin, hair and dental; coatings; adhesive and sealant applications. He also has considerable expertise in the use of high throughput workflow techniques for the discovery of unique formulated products. Current projects include biodegradable & resorbable immunosuppressant drug delivery device formulation and dental enamel erosion protective coatings development.

Hilton Kaplan
MBBCh FCSSA PhD, University of the Witwatersrand, Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, University of Southern California
Associate Director, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials
Research Associate Professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Hilton Kaplan is a Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and a Biomedical Engineer. His research focuses on neurosciences (neural prosthetics and implantable man-machine interfaces), and tissue engineering (decellularized composite tissues for limb and face allotransplantation). Dr. Kaplan is Associate Director of the NJ Center for Biomaterials and a Research Associate Professor at Rutgers University; and an Adjunct Professor in Regulatory Science at the University of Southern California.

Yong Mao
PhD, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Assistant Research Professor 
Yong Mao has broad research experience in molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry and microbiology. Having focused her academic and industrial research in extracellular matrix biology, Dr. Mao brings her expertise in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine to her new role at NJCBM.  Her main areas of interest are cell-bioscaffold interaction; scaffold supported tissue regeneration, stem cell technology and antimicrobial activity of biomaterials. Currently, she leads multiple industrial research collaborations and manages the NJCBM biology laboratory.

Antonio Merolli
MD, FBSE, Orthopedic Surgeon
Research Professor, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials 
Antonio Merolli has investigated in many fields of application of Biomaterials in Surgery. He has expertise in translational in-vivo models and histological analysis. In the past years he has expanded his interest in bone and nerve regeneration and is currently studying the role of artificial nerve-guides in regeneration of peripheral nerve, brachial plexus and spinal cord lesions. In collaboration with Dr. Yong Mao, he developed the method of suspended artificial axons for the study of the myelination process in-vitro. He is the Clinical Editor of the Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine (Springer-Nature) and an active member of the American Society for Peripheral Nerve (ASPN) and the Society for Biomaterials (SFB). He is Fellow in Biomaterials Science and Engineering (FBSE) and Editor of the book “Biomaterials in Hand Surgery” (Springer).

Bozena Michniak-Kohn
PhD, Leicester Polytechnic
Director, Center for Dermal Research
Professor of Pharmaceutics, Ernest Mario College of Pharmacy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Bozena Michniak’s research group focuses on biological membrane drug transport and delivery, involving principally topical and transdermal drug delivery. The main interest is the enhancement of drug permeation using chemical and physical techniques (iontophoresis, microneedles) as well as novel carriers (nanospheres).  She also works on the tissue engineering of a full-thickness human skin equivalent, based on the co-culture of fibroblasts and keratinocytes using collagen and novel polymer meshes as dermal matrices.

Sanjeeva Murthy
PhD, University of Connecticut
Associate Research Professor 
Sanjeeva Murthy has a broad background in materials science, biophysics and engineering, which he uses to develop and mine structure-property relationships with the goals of tailoring polymers for biomedical applications and studying interactions between cells and substrates at multiple length scales.  His expertise includes use of x-ray crystallography for characterization of polymer surfaces, thin films, and interfaces in order to study cell growth and adhesion.

Ophir Ortiz
PhD, University of South Florida
Project Manager, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials
Assistant Research Professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 
Ophir Ortiz obtained a PhD in Engineering from the University of South Florida, followed by a NIH T32 Post Doctoral Fellowship at the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials. After academia, she went to the medical device industry, where she worked both in R&D as well as Biocompatibility within Quality and Regulatory Departments. This has provided her with a well-rounded perspective of the research and development process, from the beginning of an idea all the way to commercialization.

Sangya S. Varma
MSc, PhD; IIT, University of Southern Mississippi
Chief Operating Officer, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials
Associate Research Professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 
Sangya S. Varma is a scientist: an inventor, an innovator and an educator. She developed a novel imaging technology and converted it into FDA approved and CE marked medical devices during her career in industry. As the Director of Professional Science Masters Program she was key in developing Rutgers Master of Business and Science MBS Degree program. She manages all of the operations at NJCBM alongwith sponsored programs - federal and industry.