Mohamed A. Zayed Receives Academy of Science Innovation Award

Each year, the Academy of Science—St. Louis recognizes the scientific excellence of individuals, institutions and corporations in the St. Louis region. This year marks the 26th Annual Outstanding St. Louis Scientists Awards.

Mohamed A. Zayed, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Molecular Cell Biology and Biomedical Engineering in the Section of Vascular Surgery, received the Academy’s 2020 Innovation Award, which “recognizes a scientist or engineer—age 40 or under—who has demonstrated exceptional potential for future accomplishments in science, engineering or technology.”

Zayed—whose accomplishments to-date include extensive research in vascular pharmacology, the design of novel medical devices and various National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded investigations—is only getting started. The Zayed lab is currently studying the relationship between diabetes and peripheral arterial disease to improve patient outcomes. The Academy recognizes the Zayed lab for the discovery of “several targeting enzymes in both the arterial wall and blood stream that can influence plaque formation and its progression in the peripheral arterial system.”

Zayed’s innovative research investigations translate from bench to bedside for patients with vascular disease.

“Our team translates its findings from bench-to-bedside through ongoing clinical research trials,” Zayed says. This research is ongoing, and drives Zayed’s frequent publishing of new findings.

While this award recognizes Zayed specifically, he notes the importance of his entire team. “The key to our success is our dedicated and exceptionally talented team,” Zayed states. He emphasizes that collaborative teamwork is the source of the Zayed lab’s many innovations and discoveries. Coordinating all of these collaborations is a feat, and Zayed greatly values his administrative and clinical coordinators. “Our program coordinator, Theresa Belgeri, and nurse and clinical coordinator, Ronnie Eugea, make all the wheels turn properly.”

As a lab, Zayed says his team has three core tenants: maintaining a great work environment, encouraging team-work and collaboration and striving to make important scientific contributions. These tenants have encouraged their team to maintain a high level of productivity. “We all enjoy the work that we do together,” Zayed says. This leads to the lab collecting large amounts of data, which naturally drives publication and new research grants for more projects.

Zayed Lab members, back row, from left: Vinay Chandrasekaran, Connor Engel, Theresa Belgeri, Sami Abdulnabi, Chase Hartquist. Front row, from left: Xiaohua Jin, Amanda Penrose, Shirli Tay, Mohamed Zayed, Margaret Nalugo, Ronnie Eugea, Larisa Belaygorod, John Cashin, Halle Lowe.

The Vascular Surgery BioBank is among the many projects in the Zayed lab. This initiative collects arterial and venous specimens from consented patients to be used in scientific investigations. This makes it easier for researchers to gain access to sample specimens while maintaining the highest ethical standards. With access to these samples, researchers from various specialties are able to conduct projects to better understand vascular diseases.

Zayed has also created several medical devices that promise to improve the treatment of various arterial and venous problems. His patented technologies include a graft device that is intended to help diabetic patients produce insulin naturally, and another surgical device for removing large volume blood clots from the abdomen and lungs. These devices, among others, are undergoing further development and optimization in the Zayed lab, and are some of the future innovations that the Academy cites as showing high potential for future accomplishment.

One of the most recent developments in the lab is a new $3.5 million multi-PI grant from the NIH to study inflammatory markers in the atherosclerotic plaque of patients afflicted with peripheral arterial disease.

The Academy is committed to “the advancement and integration of science and technology into contemporary society” through its series of events, awards and programs, making this award a great honor. For Zayed, however, the award holds an additional sentimental value: Eric C. Leuthardt, MD, from the Department of Neurosurgery, Zayed’s longtime mentor, received the same award in 2007.