Biomedical engineer to lead Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology


By Seth M. Woolcock

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology’s (CoEIB) fourth fall semester is its first under the leadership of Dan Hayes.

On July 1, Hayes, a professor and graduate programs coordinator of biomedical engineering and the Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Nanotherapeutics and Regenerative Medicine, became director of CoEIB, housed in the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences. He is also a State College native, an alumnus of State College Area High School and a two-time graduate from Penn State, earning his bachelor of science in life science and his doctorate in engineering sciences and mechanics.

“Penn State is my home,” Hayes said. “It’s an incredibly important piece for the commonwealth and nation as a whole with its unique capabilities in research, education and workforce development. I’m excited to be a part of the Penn State community. It’s my dream job. I grew up in State College and always hoped to be associated with Penn State. And to have that opportunity is just wonderful.”

In 2002, while still in school, Hayes and a group of fellow Penn State students co-founded NanoHorizons. Formerly based in Bellefonte, NanoHorizons was dedicated to developing and commercializing nanomaterial-enabled products on the foundation of an extensive intellectual property portfolio.

“NanoHorizons was a small industrial research and manufacturing company that was in the biotechnology space,” he said. “Much of my technical experience in making products and translating them to the market overlaps very closely with the types of research and product development that’s happening at Penn State.”

Following his time at NanoHorizons, Hayes served as a faculty member in Louisiana State University’s bioengineering department for more than eight years, before returning to Penn State.

It’s this kind of wide range of experience — from leading a start-up company or engaging in biotechnology programs that positions Hayes to lead the CoEIB when the demand for biotechnology talent is high and ever-growing. According to the 2021 Life Sciences Workforce Trends Report, there have been 2.5 million biotechnology jobs posted in the last three years and the sector increased 1.4% during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the total private sector dropped 5.4%.

“I think growth is what’s next for the CoEIB and the greater Penn State biotech community,” Hayes said. “You can see it as we just brought the Sartorius Cell Culture Facility online. An expansion in the capabilities of workforce development and research is coming. The growing of the overall scale of the community is incredibly important for the region and is something the CoEIB is poised and well-positioned to help lead within these critical areas.”

Hayes succeeded Andrew Zydney, the Bayard D. Kunkle Chair in Engineering and professor of chemical engineering, who currently is on sabbatical, as director.

A version of this article was originally published on Penn State News.


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