Professor Peter Zandstra

University Professors 2016
Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Research Interests: Stem cell bioengineering


Peter Zandstra is a Professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, with cross appointments in the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. Dr. Zandstra graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from McGill University in the Department of Chemical Engineering, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (with Jamie Piret and Connie Eaves) and continued his research training as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Biological Engineering (with Douglas Lauffenburger) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Research in the Zandstra Laboratory is focused on the generation of functional tissue from adult and pluripotent stem cells. Zandstra and his team have pioneered the field of stem cell bioengineering which applies engineering principles to the study of stem cell biology. He has discovered new ways to grow stem cells in clinically relevant bioreactors, used mathematical modeling to simulate stem cell behavior, used niche engineering and simulations to accelerate the discovery of new fundamental mechanisms in stem cell fate control, and developed technologies to generate functional human stem cell-derived micro-tissues. Zandstra’s work has advanced our understanding of difficult-to-access developmental processes and catalyzed creation of novel cell-based technologies that are contributing to drug discovery and cell therapy. A particular area of focus in the Zandstra lab is discovering how cell-cell interaction network signaling guides tissue and organ development. Current research on this topic is exploring how gene, protein and cell regulatory networks are integrated across time and length scales to control stem cell fate.

Work emerging from the Zandstra lab has been widely recognized. Dr Zandstra is the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering and is a recipient of a number of awards and fellowships including the Premiers Research Excellence Award (2002), the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (2006), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2007), the McLean Award (2009), and the Till and McCulloch Award (2013). He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2015 was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science).

Dr. Zandstra’s mentoring activities with his trainees and indeed a broad array of individuals at the University of Toronto, are an important priority for him. The Zandstra lab has hosted more than 30 students and post-doctoral fellows, the majority of whom have gone on to contribute to health and economic development in the academic and industrial sectors, particularly in the regenerative medicine space. In addition, Dr. Zandstra has contributed to hiring and mentoring a number of faculty members at the University of Toronto and other institutions world-wide.

In addition to his role as a Professor, Zandstra is interested in innovation and the process by which fundamental research can be catalyzed and translated for health and economic impact. These efforts are manifested in his roles as the Chief Scientific Officer at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), Director of Research and Development at the Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and Executive Director of Medicine by Design (MbD), an institution-wide collaborative research program. In addition to these community efforts, Dr. Zandstra has directly participated in co-founding three companies. The most recent example of this is the creation of ExCellThera (with Guy Sauvageau and Anne Marinier), a clinical stage company that focuses on the development of technologies for robust and cost effective blood stem cell based therapies for leukemia and other blood diseases.