Mauro Alini receives TERMIS-EU Career Achievement Award

Mauro Alini, vice director of the AO Research Institute Davos (ARI), was honored with a Career Achievement Award at the 2023 Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS)-EU Conference in Manchester, England, on March 29, 2023. This prestigious award recognizes Alini's long-term, landmark contributions to the tissue engineering and regenerative medicine field—work he has carried forward at ARI for over twenty years.

The award conveys significant value for Alini: "It makes me consider that what I did in my career has some meaning, some legacy." There is no doubt about this, as Alini has published 330 papers and 14 book chapters, registered 7 patents, and grown a lab at ARI from a team of 3 scientists to what is now a team of 60 scientists focused on cartilage, bone, and intervertebral disc tissue engineering. Alini's dynamic career has been recognized through awards, invited lectures, and his association with multiple international orthopedic research societies. He continues to deliver leading orthopedic research through his work with ARI, as Editor-in-Chief of JOR Spine, and as an editorial board member of multiple journals, including the eCM Journal.

A life dedicated to science

An accolade such as the TERMIS-EU Career Achievement Award is earned through decades of hard work and long lab hours, where, as Alini puts it, "science was the life."

Alini received a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland; his doctoral work centered on isolating and characterizing proteoglycans extracted from normal human mammary glands and related carcinomas. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Joint Diseases laboratory at the Shriners Hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Alini researched extracellular matrix proteins of the growth plate during endochondral bone formation. Before joining ARI in 1998, Alini was appointed as an assistant professor at McGill University's Division of Orthopedic Surgery and head of McGill's Orthopedic Research Laboratory's Biochemistry Unit. 

At ARI, Alini spent almost two decades leading the Musculoskeletal Regeneration Program (now Regenerative Orthopaedics). Since 2009, Alini has served as the vice director of ARI alongside his longtime colleague, ARI Director Prof Geoff Richards.

"I am delighted that Mauro has received this award and in the official year of his retirement," Richards shared. "Mauro turned a very small team of threetwo scientists and a technicianinto a worldwide respected research team in the tissue engineering field. He brought both cartilage and disc research to the AO."

Richards elaborated on Alini's monumental contributions: 

Previously, the AO had worked on bone, and in the early 90s cell interactions with surfaces of implants, but never the load absorbing areas of cartilage and disc. ARI is now recognized as one of the leaders in both areas. Mauro has mentored the two current leading ARI members of these areas Dr Sibylle Grad, disc, and Prof Martin Stoddart, cartilage, both of whom are now recognized world leaders in these areas. Not only has Mauro put ARI and the AO on the world scientific stage with this, but he has initiated, nurtured, and developed countless networks with ARI and been involved in numerous societies helping move the field forward. He will continue after retirement with areas such as editor for JOR Spinea fully open access title from the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS). The TERMIS honor is extremely well deserved, and we should celebrate his career with this. 

Collaborative, inclusive leadership supporting young scientists

The TERMIS-EU award also recognizes Alini's collaborative leadership, a major facet of ARI's inclusive research approach. "It's important to recognize the young scientists," Alini remarked. "You need to recognize the PI [principal investigator], the mid-career people doing the real hands-on laboratory work and the support staff." This approach is also an essential aspect of TERMIS' emphasis on mentorship and the society's multi-generational composition, which now places a high value on having a student presence at the board level. 

In honor of Alini's TERMIS Career Achievement Award, he was invited to give a plenary lecture to the annual conference's 1,000-plus attendees. Alini said his goal is to share the difficulty and success he has experienced throughout his career with a younger generation of scientists. He wants to communicate "the cycle of hope and frustration as a scientist."

Alini's next chapter

At the end of summer 2023, Alini will retire from his full-time position with ARI to begin preparing for what he calls "the third cycle of life." But we don't expect this to be a quiet period for Alini, as he will remain a presence at ARI, where he will continue his mentorship, networking, and advisory work while chasing new pursuits. "I want to write a novel," Alini said, "and for sure I will helpfinallymy wife to do gardening and maintenance of our houses."

Peer tributes

Dr Sibylle Grad:

When I started working with Mauro in summer 2000, I was new in the field of orthopedic research. I am extremely grateful that Mauro opened for me his extensive network of scientists, which was the essential basis of my past, current, and future work. Mauro has great visions and is always prepared to realize them


Prof Martin Stoddart:

I started working with Mauro in 2006. I quickly realized that national and international collaboration is key to a successful career. That spirit of openness and inclusivity is one that persists, and the program is involved in multiple collaborative research consortia, with partners all over the globe.

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