Who We Are
Christine E. Schmidt

Christine E. Schmidt

Distinguished Professor, the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Endowed Chair, University of Florida

Abstract: Engineering Materials for Clinical Nerve Repair, and Other Applications Along the Way

Damage to nerve tissue can have a devastating impact on the quality of life for individuals suffering from traumatic injuries. Dr. Schmidt’s research is focused on analyzing and designing natural-based biomaterials that can interface with neurons and specifically stimulate and guide nerves to regenerate. These biomaterials can ultimately be used for facial and hand reconstruction or in trauma cases, and potentially could be used to aid the regeneration of damaged spinal cord as well. This presentation will focus first on peripheral nerve applications and one key success that is the foundation for the Avance Nerve Graft from Axogen (Alachua, FL). In addition, along the way to uncovering strategies for nerve regeneration, Dr. Schmidt and her team also discovered a biomaterial processing approach that led to a separate application of protecting tissues after surgery, resulting in VersaWrap from Alafair Biosciences, a start-up company in Austin, Texas. Both clinical successes stemmed from academic research while Dr. Schmidt was a faculty member at the University of Texas. Since being at the University of Florida for the past decade, her research has focused predominantly on spinal cord injury (SCI) applications. She and her team are engineering injectable biomaterials for less invasive applications in crush injuries, which are the most prominent form of SCI. To date they show that these injectable materials serve as effective therapeutic agents for SCI in rats and are promising delivery agents for cell transplantation applications. Dr. Schmidt’s goal is to hopefully translate these technologies for SCI patients.


Dr. Schmidt is a Distinguished Professor, the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Endowed Chair, and former Department Chair for the University of Florida J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering. Prior to joining UF, Dr. Schmidt was the B.F. Goodrich Endowed Professor at the University of Texas at Austin in both Biomedical Engineering (founding member) and Chemical Engineering.
Dr. Schmidt is an inductee of the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame and an elected member of the Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine of Florida. She is Past President for the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering and a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the American Society for the Advancement of Science, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering, and the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering. Dr. Schmidt has received other prominent recognitions, including AIMBE’s prestigious Pierre Galletti Award, the BMES Diversity Award, the TERMIS-AM Commercialization/Innovation Award, the Clemson Award for Applied Research from Society For Biomaterials, the American Competitiveness and Innovation Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, and the Chairmen's Distinguished Life Sciences Award from Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Schmidt has over 27 years of experience in neural tissue engineering and wound healing, with over $25M in funding and 200 peer-reviewed papers and chapters (H-index=66), 30 issued U.S. patents, and has trained 18 post-doctoral engineers and scientists, 50 graduate students, and hundreds of undergraduates in her laboratory. Dr. Schmidt's research has had significant clinical impact on nerve repair and post-surgical wound care. Her work is the foundation for the Avance Nerve Repair graft from Axogen and the VersaWrap Protector from her affiliated start-up company, Alafair Biosciences. Dr. Schmidt is a Section Editor for Current Opinion in Biomedical Engineering and served as the inaugural Deputy Editor-in-Chief for Journal of Materials Chemistry B. She currently serves on the editorial boards for numerous other prominent journals.
As Department Chair from 2013 to 2023, Dr. Schmidt helped transform UF BME with the hiring of 22 faculty, a three to four-fold increase in research expenditures, and a ten-fold increase in trainee fellowships. Women faculty increased from 2 to 16 (55% women) and Black and Hispanic faculty increasing from 1 to 7 (24% URM). UF BME undergraduate and graduate programs were ranked 13th and 17th, respectively, among national public programs (U.S. News & World Report, USNWR). The undergraduate BME program first became ABET accredited in Fall 2019 and the graduate program rankings climbed more than 20 spots during Dr. Schmidt’s term.