UBC stem cell researcher receives 2018 BC MEDTECH Award

Diepiriye Iworima

Priye Iworima, a PhD student at the UBC School of Biomedical Engineering, has received the 2018 BC MEDTECH Graduate Award in Biomedical Engineering.

Selected by the Faculties of Applied Science and Medicine in consultation with the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, recipients are recognized for their “entrepreneurial spirit, interest in the local biomedical engineering industry and demonstrated leadership and communication skills.” The $1,400 award was endowed by the BC Medical Devices Association.

Iworima received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Simon Fraser University, where she studied the effects of impaired mitochondrial movement on neuron health and function. She is currently working with UBC professor Timothy Kieffer to develop protocols for the conversion of stem cells into beta cells, or the cells in the pancreas that produce and secrete insulin. If successful, such protocols may one day be used to reverse diabetes.

“One of my long-term goals is to build a start-up company that specializes in the large-scale production of stem cell-derived insulin-secreting cells, and later, other stem cell-derived cell types,” says Iworima.

To enable her and her colleagues to perform cell culture and differentiation on a large scale, Iworima led the design and installation of a new cell manufacturing facility in the Kieffer lab. An authority on tissue culture and pancreatic differentiation, she has also collaborated with a local biotech company to develop strategies for implanting bioprinted stem cell-derived pancreatic progenitor cells or beta cells.

“By generating specialized cells on a large scale and translating them into a clinical setting, I hope to make a significant positive impact on my community and the health care system,” says Iworima.