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 
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.  Kohn's combinatorial biomaterials design approach was also used for the development of optimized polymers by Lux Biosciences (ophthalmic applications) and by Trident Biomedical (orthopedic applications).

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 University
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. Dr. Kaplan has held various clinical and research positions in industry, including Senior Medical Director at Allergan (Fortune 500 healthcare) and Vice President of Clinical Sciences at LifeCell (pioneered decellularizing dermis). He has a long history of passionately advocating for burn prevention and reconstruction (as a burn surgeon, a founding board member of the non-profit Grossman Burn Foundation, and the adoptive father of a spirited burn survivor), and for craniofacial reconstruction (as a founding director of the non-profit Look-at-Us Alliance for Craniofacial Differences).

Durgadas Bolikal
PhD, Marquette University
Associate Research Professor 

Das Bolikal is an expert in the synthesis and modification of polymers used for biomedical applications. He works with polymer systems such as pseudo-poly(amino acids), poly(ethylene glycol)-based polymers, polymerized surfactants, and vesicles.  His collaborations with industrial sponsors provide the synthetic and analytic services needed for commercialization activities.

Murat Guvendiren
PhD, Northwestern University, MSc BS, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
Assistant Research Professor
Murat Guvendiren is a materials engineer and gained expertise in polymer physics and chemistry, photochemistry and bioengineering. His research interests include the development of soft biomaterials displaying tunable dynamic properties (chemical, mechanical and topographical), biomimetic design of materials, photopolymerization, self-assembly and surface patterning.  The applications of research range from understanding and controlling stem cell behavior via materials-based approaches to fabricating intelligent scaffolds for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.  His current research is focused on extending the range of 3D printable polymers, and developing bioactive hydrogels to preserve self-renewal of stem cells.

Carmine Iovine
MS, Rutgers - the State University
Assistant Research Professor 
Carmine Iovine was Group Vice President for Research at ICI/National Starch 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 synthetic, water soluble polymers including polyelectrolytes, and in the application of these materials to delivery systems, personal care, food and adhesive applications. He also has considerable expertise in the use of high throughput workflow techniques for the discovery of
unique formulated products.

Yong Mao
PhD, Rutgers - the State University of New Jersey
Assistant Research Professor 
Yong Mao was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and a Senior Scientist at LifeCell Corporation before joining the Center.  She has broad 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; matrix/scaffold supported tissue regeneration, stem cell technology and antimicrobial activity of biomaterials.

Antonio Merolli
MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Universita’ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, FBSE
Visiting Research Scholar, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials
Clinical Editor of the Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine. Active Member of the American Society for Peripheral Nerve (ASPN). Past Treasurer of the European Society for Biomaterials (2001-2009). Fellow in Biomaterials Science and Engineering (FBSE). Editor of the book “Biomaterials in Hand Surgery” (Springer). Dr. Merolli has investigated in many fields of interest for the application of Biomaterials in Orthopedic Surgery, like Bioceramics (Hydroxyapatite and Bioactive Glasses) and biodegradable/bioresorbable polymers. He has expertise in translational in-vivo models and histological analysis (particularly by TEM, SEM and BSEM). In the past years he has expanded his interest in nerve regeneration and is currently studying the role of artificial nerve-guides in regeneration and repair of peripheal nerve, brachial plexus and spinal cord lesions.

Bozena Michniak
PhD, Leicester Polytechnic
Professor of Pharmaceutics
Ernest Mario College of Pharmacy, Rutgers
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.

Sangya S. Varma
MSc, PhD; IIT, University of Southern Mississippi
Chief Operating Officer, New Jersey Center for Biomaterials
Associate Research Professor, Rutgers University
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 (International Specialty Products, Inc. now Ashland, Inc.). She is a key contributor in developing Rutgers Master of Business and Science Degree program (as Director of Rutgers PSM program, Professor in Regulatory Affairs, Academic Advisor and Mentor, Curricula & Course Developer – specifically in Drug Discovery Development and Personal Care Science). Dr. Varma is passionate about the real world applications of Biomaterials.