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Dr. Bagnato
Acclaimed researcher Dr. Vanderlei S. Bagnato will join the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2023. | Image: Courtesy of Dr. Vanderlei S. Bagnato
The Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University is excited to welcome Dr. Vanderlei S. Bagnato. Starting in 2023, Bagnato will serve as a professor in the department. He will teach and mentor students while continuing his research in photodynamic therapy.

"We are excited to have Dr. Bagnato join the department for many reasons, his visionary and translational research focus being the most important,” said Dr. Mike McShane, department head and James J. Cain Professor II. “Dr. Bagnato’s leadership of an interdisciplinary team of engineers, scientists and clinicians will directly build bridges with clinical partners to improve cancer treatment in a way that will impact the lives of many Texans — and eventually millions of people around the world. We are also looking forward to Dr. Bagnato’s complementary expertise further enhancing some of our existing strengths in biophotonics.”

 A world-renowned researcher, Bagnato has published more than 600 peer-reviewed articles and has supervised more than 130 master’s and doctoral students throughout his career. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the elite Vatican Academy of Sciences, the oldest academy in the world.

Bagnato holds a doctorate in physics (1987) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, master’s (1983) and bachelor’s (1981) degrees in physics from the University of São Paulo and an engineer degree in material sciences (1981) from the University Federal of São Carlos.

Texas A&M recruited Bagnato through the Hagler Fellows Program. The Hagler Institute for Advanced Study fosters collaboration between prestigious scholars and Texas A&M’s faculty and students by bringing National Academy or Nobel Prize-caliber researchers to Texas A&M for a year-long appointment. As part of the 2018-19 Hagler Fellows class, Bagnato made numerous trips to College Station, Texas, to work with professors in the College of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences. In the biomedical engineering department, Bagnato partnered with university professor Dr. Vladislav V. Yakovlev.

"I had the opportunity to partner with Dr. Bagnato through his participation in the Hagler Fellows Program,” Yakovlev said. “He is an outstanding researcher. His passion for mentoring students and helping mankind through his research efforts will be an asset to Texas A&M." 

Throughout his career, Bagnato has focused his research on life-saving technologies. His goal has been to make these technologies available to the public by translating his research into products and treatment programs. Most recently, Bagnato’s research has focused on using photodynamic therapy to treat skin cancer, including both non-melanoma and melanoma.

“Photodynamic therapy uses light and ultrasound to treat skin cancer,” Bagnato said. “We first treat the skin cancer with chemicals that respond to the presence of light or ultrasound waves, then we administer the light or ultrasound waves to the patient to target and eliminate the cancer. We have already treated thousands of people in Brazil and successfully eliminated 95% of lesions.”

Bagnato has been recognized with countless awards, including the Almirante Alvaro Alberto Award and the Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração (CBMM) Science and Technology Award, the highest-order awards for science and technology in Brazil. However, he is truly motivated by his ability to make a difference and give back to the community.

“We don’t do science for the money,” Bagnato said. “We do science for the difference we make. Scientific research has to turn back to the people — otherwise, it’s useless.”

Using photodynamic therapy, Bagnato has treated and cured thousands of people across Brazil and other Latin American countries. Continuing to make a difference in the lives of these individuals is what drives him to continue his research.

“On one occasion, I treated the cancer of a lady who makes coconut and pumpkin candies,” Bagnato said. “These candies are very popular in Brazil. Months after I cured her cancer, she came to find me with a basket of candy. She brought me the thing she does best as a prize. Being able to see the difference I made in her life was the best prize I could receive.” 

At the University of São Paulo, Bagnato currently serves as a professor of physics and coordinator of the Center of Excellence, dedicated to optics and photonics. He will request an absence from this position before moving to Texas A&M in 2023. In the biomedical engineering department he will be the director of two labs, one that researches cancer treatment and the other that researches the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Through his research, he will continue to collaborate with his colleagues at the University of São Paulo.

“I hope to create new techniques to treat melanoma,” Bagnato said. “My goal will be to either eliminate the cells and cure the cancer or to make the cells attach more rigidly to the tumor and prevent the disease from spreading. In the bacteria laboratory, we will focus on treating antibiotic-resistant pneumonia to prevent the death of thousands of people each year.”

In addition to conducting life-saving research, Bagnato will teach students and serve as a faculty advisor to master’s and doctoral students.

“It is an honor to be chosen by Texas A&M,” Bagnato said. “I am looking forward to being a part of its team and making a difference in science and the future of humanity.”