Researcher

Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina

Field of Research (FoR)

Biography

Research Interests

Dr Rnjak-Kovacina’s research interests are at the interface of biology and engineering, focusing on the development of novel, biomimetic biomaterial platforms with tuneable biophysical and biochemical features that direct cellular behaviour and function. In particular, she works on developing strategies to promote vascular regeneration on biomaterials.


Current projects

Biomaterials for vascular engineering- The aim of...view more

Research Interests

Dr Rnjak-Kovacina’s research interests are at the interface of biology and engineering, focusing on the development of novel, biomimetic biomaterial platforms with tuneable biophysical and biochemical features that direct cellular behaviour and function. In particular, she works on developing strategies to promote vascular regeneration on biomaterials.


Current projects

Biomaterials for vascular engineering- The aim of this project is to develop silk-based biomaterial platforms for use in blood-contacting vascular devices, such as vascular grafts and stents, as well as develop strategies to promote vascular ingrowth and tissue vascularisation.

Biomimetic materials- The aim of this project is to develop silk-based biomaterial platforms that mimic the physical and biological features of the vascular niche, thus direct cellular interactions, and serve as unique biomimetic drug delivery platforms. We will utilise unique protein deposition technologies including protein printing and gas plasma surface modification to functionalise silk biomaterials with extracellular matrix proteins (eg. perlecan) found in the vascular niche.

Bioengineered extracellular matrix- The aim of this project is to engineer molecules of the vascular niche with specific features using recombinant DNA technology and protein expression. For example, individual domains of a vascular proteoglycan, perlecan, will be engineered to promote endothelial cell interactions and drug delivery via integrin binding sites and heparin sulphate chains.


Lectures/ Courses taught

Course coordinator 

BIOM 9432- Chemistry & Physics of Synthetic and Biological Polymers

BIOM9410- Regulatory Requirements of Medical Technology 

Guest lecturer 

BIOM 9333- Cellular & Tissue Engineering

BIOM9332- Biocompatibility

BIOM 9420- Clinical Laboratory Sciences


Education & Training

Postdoctoral scholarDepartment of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University, Boston, USA, 2011-2013

Research area: Development of novel silk-based biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, Supervisor: Prof David Kaplan

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney, 2011

Research area: Development of human elastin-based dermal substitutes for the treatment of severe burn injuries, Supervisor: Prof Antony Weiss

Bachelor of Science (Molecular Biology & Genetics) (Honours I) (University Medal),University of Sydney, 2007


Professional Activities

  • Member of the American Chemical Society (ACS) (2015-present)
  • Member of the Matrix Biology Society of Australia and New Zealand (2014-present)
  • Member of the International Society for Matrix Biology (2014-present)
  • Member of the Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) ( 2012-present)
  • Member of the Tissue Engineering Resource Centre (2011-2014)                                                  
  • Member of the Australasian Society for Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering (2008-present)                                       
  • Member of the Sydney University Tissue Engineering Network (2008-2011)                                            
  • Mentor in the University of Sydney Talented Students Program (2004-2006)                                                            
  • Member of the Golden Key International Honour Society (2004- present)                                                                   
  • Reviewer for  Biomacromolecules, Cell & Bioscience, Biomaterials Science: Polymer Edition, ACS Nano,Tissue Engineering, ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering journals 

Funding

  • ARC Discovery Project – ‘Novel biomimetic vascular biomaterials using extracellular matrix molecules’ (2015-2017)                                           
  • UNSW Australia Minor Equipment Grant (2014)                                                                    
  • UNSW Australia  ECR Award- ‘Generation of novel pro-angiogenic biomimetic materials using recombinant extracellular matrix molecules’ (2014)                                          

Awards

  • UNSW Faculty of Engineering Travel Award (2014)                                                      
  • CASS Foundation Travel Award (2014)                                                                          
  • Australasian Society for Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering (ASBTE) Travel Award (2014)                                                                                            
  • Best Early Career Researcher Oral Presentation Award  at the annual meeting of the Australasian Society for Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering (ASBTE) (2013)                   
  • Best poster prize at the annual meeting of the  Australasian Society for Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering Conference (2009)
  • Best poster prize at the 34th Lorne Conference on Protein Structure & Function (2009)                              
  • Australian Postgraduate Award (2007)                                                                                                 
  • University Medal, University of Sydney (2007)                                                                                                                         
  • Dean’s Honour List for excellence in academic performance, University of Sydney (2004-2006)                                         

 

 

 

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Location

Room 507, Level 5, Samuels Building
UNSW
Sydney NSW 2052
AUSTRALIA

Contact

+61 2 9385 3920

Videos

Dr Rnjak-Kovacina's silk biomaterial research featured in ACS Headline Science