Michael Francis, Ph.D.
CSO at Embody

Dr. Michael Francis, Ph.D., is the CSO at Embody, a biofabrication R&D and advanced manufacturing-based medical device company in Norfolk, VA. A biotechnology professional with a passion and prowess for translational science & regenerative medicine, Dr. Francis has a diverse R&D and leadership experience spanning cardiovascular, orthopedic, spine, craniofacial and sports medicine indications. As a serial inventor, he has led multiple projects from market needs assessment and clinician input, to product ideation, team-science research, preclinical animal studies, through design control and regulatory submission, to platform product production. 

As faculty at Eastern Virginia Medical School, he lectures regularly and actively mentors students, and teaches in the University of Virginia Biomedical Engineering Capstone course. He is also highly involved in community service to the profession, including serving on numerous academic and non-profit advisory boards and committees, and has founded two lecture series on regenerative medicine. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy and B.S. in Biology concurrently from the University of Akron, and a Ph.D. in Pathology between the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Electrospun Regenerative Telocollagen-Based Medical Devices for Achilles Tendon Repair
Nearly 800,000 surgical repairs are performed annually in the U.S. for ligaments and tendons of the foot and ankle, shoulder, and knee, yet the current standards of care are inadequate. Leading repair scaffold products are two decade-old technologies that rely on cadaveric tissue or invasive autografting. A clear opportunity is present for translating new, advanced biomaterials for improving patient care, as may be possible with electrospun collagen-based devices. However, electrospinning of collagen-based products is currently beset by lack of stability of the electrospun material, sub-optimal 3D spatial resolution, challenging processing, poor reproducibility, low yield, poor cell infiltration in the resulting matrix, and common use of hazardous processing solvents. We present research efforts—directed at medical device manufacturing—on producing electrospun collagen-based biomaterials using a “green” solvent system to form mechanically strong regenerative matrices with high spatial resolution, and with dramatically improved in vivo cell infiltration potential relative to matrices made by traditional methods.

Our work shows the ability to control the 3D assembly and anisotropic fiber alignment of type I collagen—the structural, cell-binding, cell-signaling building block protein of adult connective tissues—by electrospinning, has tremendous applications in advancing medical device manufacturing. We show a novel “green” solvent systems can produce grafts of collagen-PDLLA which are mechanically as strong as conventionally electrospun materials, and with significantly improved cell infiltration potential, all without the use of hazardous processing agents. This combined work further progresses electrospinning towards commercialization of regenerative medical devices for soft tissue repair.