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FTE Leadership Change


Dr. Frances Ligler, Associate Director of the Functional Tissue Program, has stepped down as of September 1, 2017.  Serving in her position for the past two years, Dr. Ligler was instrumental in establishing the open-vote seed grant competition that the CMI has embraced.  It is extremely exciting to watch the formulation of ideas and collaborations in an intense “speed-dating” atmosphere.

A Lampe Distinguished Professor in the UNC/NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Ligler has assisted CMI members in bridging opportunities across the region in the area of regenerative medicine.  Her personal background includes biochemistry, immunology, diagnostics, biosensors, microfluidics, and organ-on-chip engineering.

Dr. Ligler was recently inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame and we are truly honored that she chose to serve as an officer in the CMI.  We are particularly grateful that she has agreed to stay on the Executive Committee as an ad hoc member so that the Institute will continue to receive her invaluable opinion.

The CMI would like the thank Dr. Ligler for her years of service and wish her the best of luck in all of her future endeavors.



The CMI is excited to announce that Dr. Ke Cheng and Dr. Binil Starly will be undertaking the leadership of the FTE as Associate Directors after the departure of Dr. Frances Ligler.

Dr. Ke Cheng is an Associate Professor of Regenerative Medicine.  He has a BSc from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, a PhD from University of Georgia and did his postdoctoral training at Cedar-Sinai and UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.  Dr. Cheng has served on CMI Executive Committee as an ad hoc member since March 2016.  Translational research is Dr. Cheng’s major focus.  His laboratory studies regenerative medicine using patient-derived stem cells, biomaterials, micro-RNAs and bioengineering approaches.

Dr. Binil Starly is an Associate Professor of Translational Regenerative Medicine. He has a BS from University of Kerala, India and a PhD from Drexel University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Starly stated that, “as a manufacturing engineer, my role would be to identify, develop and find the resources needed to build the key platforms to help translate engineered cell, tissue and organ systems to an industrial scale operation. Such enabling platforms will allow for the automation and standardization of processes involved with either scaling-out or scaling-up these regenerative medicine therapies for eventual impact at the bed-side.” His expertise is in digital design, modeling, simulation and manufacturing processes, particularly intelligent machines and cyber-physical manufacturing industry, particularly the healthcare industry. He was part of the Chancellor’s Faculty of Excellence Program cluster hire. He recently received a National Science Foundation CAREER award for research in multi-scale biological tissue scaffold systems.

Some of the two leaders’ goals for FTE are:

  • Demonstrate collaboration between science, engineering and clinicians as well as with external collaborators, which include industry, government and national associations to help achieve the broader goals of the CMI.
  • Promote the work of FTE faculty and students in national and international forums to help attract recognition for the CMI, the colleges and the university.
  • Attain long-term center based funding through research partnerships, resources, training grants, large center grants and program grants.

Dr. Cheng summed it all up with, “I feel honored to co-lead the CMI-FTE group.  This means opportunities, responsibilities and commitment.”   We believe the combined leadership of these two highly accomplished Associate Professors will bring about the opportunity for continued growth and success of the FTE.