Science Knight Out 2023 preview

Headshot of a woman with text that reads Science Knight Out Precision Medicine for Better Bones

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Building Better Bones

Inaugural Bioengineering chair Danielle Benoit headlines the seventh Science Knight Out on April 11

How can we make bones heal better, enabling people to recover more quickly after suffering from injury or disease? For the 1.5 million people who suffer fractures related to osteoporosis each year, it’s a $20 billion question. For bioengineer Danielle Benoit, it’s the subject of her life’s work.

“I wake up every morning and think about bone,” said Benoit, a professor at the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact who is seeking to develop therapeutic strategies to improve bone health.

As the featured speaker at the Science Knight Out community science lecture on April 11, Benoit will explore the science behind better bones and detail some of the ways she and other researchers are developing new biomaterials and applying precision medicine to create better outcomes for patients.

Benoit’s talk is titled “Precision Medicine for Better Bones.” She is the the UO’s inaugural Lorry Lokey Chair of the Department of Bioengineering and the seventh speaker in the Knight Campus’ Science Knight Out annual series. Past speakers include Knight Campus professor Bala Ambati and Bob Guldberg, Vice President and Executive Director of the Knight Campus.

Science Knight Out is free and open to the public with registration available online. This year’s event is at 6:30 pm on April 11 at The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, 868 High Street at E Broadway, Eugene.

two people wearing white coats and safety goggles in a lab

An NIH- and NSF-funded researcher, Benoit specializes in the design of materials to improve disease treatments and expedite recovery from injuries. Her work has provided insights into the translation of tissue engineering strategies for bone healing and development of tissue models to discover new drugs and drug delivery systems.

This work has led to ten patents and direct impact in several applications. In bone regeneration, Benoit has discovered new ways to control key interactions responsible for recreating bone and ensuring that critical processes happen at the correct times. In drug delivery, she has worked in tissue targeting approaches that zero in on target areas without affecting surrounding tissues, including for chemotherapy.

“Chemotherapies are notoriously challenging. You’re always walking a fine line between harming your patients and getting rid of the cancer cells,” she said. “We are developing our drug delivery systems so you don’t have to be so close to that line, where you can precisely deliver drugs to the tumor.”

Benoit calls herself “a quintessential engineer” who would spend rainy days as a child in her native Maine using duct tape, cardboard, and old encyclopedias to build racetracks for her Matchbox cars. Bioengineering was a natural outlet for her desire to make things and to help society, which aligns well with the mission and vision of the Knight Campus.

“I’m a tinkerer. I love taking things apart and putting them back together and I was really drawn to applying that type of tinkerer approach in biomedical applications in my career,” she said. “Trying to improve society and society’s health is highly significant and very motivating for one’s life’s work.”

Benoit is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and is currently on the editorial boards of The Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, Science Advances, and Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington in the Department of Bioengineering. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a B.S. from the University of Maine, Orono, in Biological Engineering.

To learn more about Benoit and her research at the Knight Campus, visit the Benoit Lab for Therapeutic Biomaterials website.

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