2020 Inductees

Christine Schmidt

Christine Schmidt, Ph.D.

Pruitt Family Professor and Chair
J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering
University of Florida

19 U.S. Patents

Christine Schmidt is professor and chair of the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida (UF), known for her prominent contributions to biomaterials science and cellular/tissue engineering. Schmidt’s research and unique approach to neural regeneration resulted in the creation of a biochemically-processed nerve graft, which was licensed to AxoGen, Inc. in Alachua, Florida and commercialized as AVANCE™. The AVANCE™ nerve graft is available to centers and hospitals throughout the world. To date, more than 5,000 AVANCE™ nerve grafts have been successfully implanted into patients with peripheral nerve injuries at over 250 medical centers in the United States. AVANCE™, predominantly used to treat injury to the cavernous nerve after prostate cancer surgery, injury to nerves in the hands and fingers resulting from machine-induced accidents, and traumatic injuries to nerves in the face, legs, and arms resulting from military warfare and automobile accidents provides a much needed option for nerve injuries suffered by over 10,000 people annually. Schmidt’s research with hyaluronic acid-based materials is also proving to have an impact on post-surgical wound care management. Her novel technique being tested at the UF Schmidt Lab has created mechanically robust and elastic hyaluronic acid hydrogel films that can be easily handled, sutured, and delivered laparoscopically. Recognized as a leader in her field, Schmidt holds 19 U.S. patents and is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the National Academy of Inventors.

3 Questions for the Inventor

Q   Of your patents/inventions, which one is your favorite and why?

My favorite invention is “Cell-free tissue replacement for tissue engineering” (US Patent #s 7,402,319), with Terry Hudson. This patent was licensed to AxoGen for use in their AVANCETM Nerve Graft product. This is my favorite innovation because the licensing of this patent has resulted in impacting the lives of thousands and thousands of patients already. Helping the human condition is the major motivation for those in the biomedical engineering field, so having a technology move from the research labs into patients is the ultimate dream. In addition, the need for the technology seemed, in a sense, so obvious at the time. Terry Hudson and I started working on decellularizing nerve tissue after learning about decellularized dermal products to help those with major skin injuries and wondering why something similar did not exist for repairing injured nerves. It seemed like there should be something out there for nerve, but there was not. The research to find a way to decellularize the nerve without destroying its intricate structure and organization, something that was not an issue with dermis, was tedious but ultimately gratifying!

Q   What inspired you to become an inventor/innovator?

I really enjoy fixing things and solving problems. It is completely natural to learn about a medical problem in my area of expertise and be able to use our research to address the problem, and ultimately innovate a solution that solves the problem.

Q   Do you have a personal process that you follow when inventing?

I like to focus on the problem, with input on what is needed or usable in the clinic and with an eye to simplicity (less to go wrong and easier to navigate the FDA to move to the clinic). There are many ways to solve problems, but if the invention is not actually used, then there is no value added. Thus, it’s important that what we are inventing in the lab is something that would be used in the clinic by the physicians.