Distinguished Speaker Series – Dr. Robert Burrell

The November seminar in our Distinguished Speaker series is by Dr. Robert Burrell, Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering, University of Alberta.

The event will take place on Tuesday, November 4, 1:00 – 2:00 pm, in CHBE Room 202. All are welcome.

Dr. Burrell’s talk is entitled “Nanomedicine: Advanced Nanostructured Materials”.


Pasteur presented his “Germ Theory of Disease” in the 1870s which identified bacteria as a cause of disease.  A few short years later Crede was using 1% silver nitrate solutions to treat and prevent eye infections in newborns.  Ninety years later physicians such as Moyer, Monafo and Burke started using 0.5% silver nitrate solutions to treat and prevent burn wound infections.  In 1967 Fox introduced 1% silver sulfadiazine cream for the treatment of burns.  This had advantages over silver nitrate in that it had better controlled release properties for silver ions.  This became the main first line defense against infections in burns units world wide for 40 years.  The drawback to these materials is that they simply release silver ions while having some negative effects on wound healing.

The innovation discussed here is a radically different approach to the use of silver in wound healing: it utilizes nanocrystalline silver which releases not only Ag+ ions but new species of silver.  They increase the rate of kill of microorganisms by orders of magnitude and equally, if not more importantly, provide potent anti-inflammatory activity.  Both of these properties are essential for wound healing. The first commercial applications of this technology are antimicrobial wound dressings marketed under the Acticoat™ nanocrystalline silver brand by Smith and Nephew Plc.  These dressings are the world’s first commercial application of a therapeutic nanotechnology.  In this presentation Dr. Burrell will discuss the development of these advanced nanostructured materials. The discussion will begin with the fundamental bench science that led to the synthesis and characterization of the nanomaterials used and end with the clinical research that established their value in medicine.


Burrell_image_Nov2014Dr. Robert E. Burrell is currently a Canada Research Chair in Nanostructured Biomaterials and a Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering in the Faculties of Engineering and Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. His formal education includes a BSc and MSc from the University of Guelph and a PhD (Toxicology) and PDF (Chemical Engineering) from the University of Waterloo.  He is the past Vice President, Science and Technology and Chief Scientific Officer, for Nucryst Pharmaceutical Corp. Previously, Dr. Burrell established a program for the development of advanced industrial materials for biomedical and biotechnical applications at Alcan International. He is one of the world’s leading experts on the use of advanced metallic films for therapeutic applications including; 1) the control of microbial growth on a wide range of devices and 2) control of the inflammatory response after injury.  He is the inventor of various devices and processes, including antimicrobial films (Acticoat dressings, the world’s first commercial therapeutic application of nanotechnology), visual immunoassays (the application of nanotechnology to diagnostics), submicron superparamagnetic particles (the application of nanotechnology to cell sorting and separation), single cell protein production, and bioconversion of agriwaste, including cellulosic materials, into added value products.  He is a named inventor on more than 300 patents and pending patents exist worldwide. He has led the commercialization of numerous medical products that are now sold worldwide.  He has received many awards recognizing his work on nanostructured materials in medicine. In 2013 he was named a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences  In 2009, he was the winner of the Encana Principal award from the Ernest Manning Foundation, Canada’s highest honour for Technical Innovation. That year the ASM International accorded him their prestigious Engineered Materials Achievement Award for the development of technology and manufacturing methods for silver based nanostructured, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory coatings.  In 2008 he received the World Union of Wound Healing Societies Lifetime Achievement Award for research and development in wound care.