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September 9, 2021

Q&A with outgoing director, Center for Regenerative Medicine

By Susan Buckles
Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D.

Regenerative medicine pioneer Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., was named inaugural director of Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine on Jan. 4, 2011. Dr. Terzic built out regenerative medicine across Research, Practice and Education, integrating this emerging field into all medical and surgical specialties, laboratory medicine and radiology.

Under his leadership, Mayo Clinic built a reputation as a premier destination and trusted forum for regenerative care. During his decade as director, regenerative medicine activities such as discovery science, clinical trials and publications, have exponentially grown.

Today, more than 122,000 regenerative medicine procedures are performed annually at Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Terzic stepped down from his director role on Aug. 9, in line with institutional leadership transitions.

The Center for Regenerative Medicine blog editor sat down with Dr. Terzic to discuss the center, its accomplishments and much more:

Q: How did the Center for Regenerative Medicine get its start?

DR. TERZIC: Mayo Clinic recognized early that the aging of the global population precipitates an epidemic of chronic, degenerative diseases. These illnesses, such as heart failure, cancer, diabetes or dementia, have often only limited medical answers. Mayo recognized the need to go beyond easing the symptoms, aiming to solve the underlying cause and ultimately offer cures.

An explosion of new technologies at that time, notably the genomic revolution, led to the creation of the Center for Individualized Medicine. A better understanding of how we can transfer this new knowledge into practice solutions led to the build-out of the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for Science of Health Care Delivery. In parallel, the evolution in restorative principles triggered the launch of the Center for Regenerative Medicine. Together, these three centers, referred to as "transformative centers," established jointly by constituencies at Mayo, led a transformation of new knowledge, aspiring to deliver new solutions to patients in need.

Q: How has regenerative medicine evolved at Mayo Clinic over the years?

DR. TERZIC: Many departments were actively engaged in the sciences and practices of regenerative medicine. The Center for Regenerative Medicine served as a catalyst, facilitating the rollout of this new field of practice across the enterprise.

Since inception, the whole team within the center contributed to its success through ongoing interactions with essentially all specialties at Mayo Clinic. It has been a memorable satisfaction to witness how departments and divisions developed new programs, new pipelines and new services, effectively building a new chapter of medicine. Through advancement of a comprehensive toolkit and buildup of state-of-the-art infrastructure, the center has increasingly contributed to the Mayo Clinic identity.

Q: You've said regenerative medicine is more than stem cells. Can you explain that?

DR. TERZIC: At the onset, the focus had been on stem cells. Indeed, stem cell biology remains the flagship technology that has ushered in the field. Over the years, additional regenerative technologies have shown potential to trigger the body's ability to heal. So the regenerative toolkit is becoming more and more diverse.

Diversification is enabling new targets to be achieved, including reduction in the cost of manufacturing, better standardization and scalability ― all key determinants of broader adoption. The overarching goal of regenerative medicine is to be accessible and affordable to all.

Q: During your time as director, you led the development of curricula, culminating in a new academic rank for regenerative medicine. How does that advance the practice?

DR. TERZIC: Regenerative medicine is in a way a microcosm of Mayo Clinic. Built on enduring institutional values, it represents the intersection of Research, Practice and Education. Education is a pivotal dimension in building the workforce of the future.

Mayo Clinic is a leader in this field, with dedicated regenerative medicine curricula across each of its five schools ― some of which already lead to advanced dedicated degrees. Few, if any institutions, offer such a comprehensive approach to regenerative medicine education, integrating the science of regenerative biology with the practice of regenerative care.

The training goes beyond future physicians and scientists to include aspiring engineers, clinical trials coordinators, nurses, physical therapists, and the whole community of health care learners in a broader sense.

Elevating regenerative medicine to a field of academic rank is a testament to the recognition that this field is increasingly mature and that the institution is expanding the horizons of medicine. Many of our colleagues that are already experts in sciences, medicine, surgery, radiology or laboratory medicine will now also have the opportunity to become specialists in regenerative medicine. By expanding their own horizons, they also drive the field of the future.

Q: What lessons have you learned during your time as director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine?

DR. TERZIC: Mayo Clinic has a long tradition of systematically building new areas of medicine. I think the most important lesson we learned in this build-out is that regenerative medicine is a true multidisciplinary field that transcends specialties, bridging scientific innovation with modern clinical care and exemplifying the discovery-development-delivery continuum. Case in point, in the translational space, we have been able to introduce regenerative product development, manufacturing and testing under rigorous compliance, and implement quality control and regulatory oversight to generate patient-ready solutions.

Q: What do you think is the center's biggest accomplishment?

DR. TERZIC: I believe that through the build-out of regenerative medicine, Mayo Clinic is poised to create an exciting one-of-a kind therapeutic arm, leveraging new technologies and platforms, and transforming care from fighting disease to rebuilding health. Mayo has already a formidable diagnostic arm.

Now there is an opportunity to establish an equivalent therapeutic arm, allowing the institution to offer new therapies and contribute to the quest of eradicating two words from the lexicon: "incurable" and "terminal."

Q: What is the center's most important discovery?

DR. TERZIC: What has been particularly exciting to see is that restoring form and function has been recognized at the very scientific level and then built into clinical development programs across clinical areas. Feasibility and safety of regenerative procedures have been steadily documented.

The current phase has focused on refining regenerative outcomes. There will be even more emphasis on identifying who the best candidates are to receive regenerative care and which patients have the highest likelihood of success. It is how the fields of individualized medicine, regenerative medicine and augmented intelligence all come together to ensure better outcomes for patients.

Q: What's next for regenerative medicine?

DR. TERZIC: Mayo Clinic is positioned to become an institution that can develop its own regenerative therapies. Investments in advanced biomanufacturing are an opportunity to apply regenerative medicine research to launch validated new biotherapeutics to address patient needs.

I believe Mayo Clinic in the next decade is well-positioned to biomanufacture an increasing number of differentiating clinical-grade biotherapeutics ready for diverse clinical use. We can envision patients from all over the world coming to Mayo to receive such novel treatments.

I think it's a very exciting next phase in which we will see Mayo Clinic further differentiate itself as a global leader in regenerative medicine.

Q: What will be your next area of focus?

DR. TERZIC: I will remain serving the needs of Mayo Clinic. It is a lasting inspiration.

Dr. Terzic is the Marriott Family Director, Comprehensive Cardiac Regenerative Medicine for the Center for Regenerative Medicine and the Marriott Family Professor of Cardiovascular Research.

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