Dr. Viswanathan is a Scientist at the Schroeder Arthritis Institute and the Krembil Research Institute (University Health Network) and an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and at the Department of Medicine (University of Toronto). Her research is focused on using anti-inflammatory approaches to target osteoarthritis (OA), including using proprietary enhanced mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) to modulating inflammatory responses and reprogram monocytes/macrophages.  Dr. Viswanathan’s lab is focused on the optimization and translation of cell-based therapies into clinical investigations. Dr. Viswanathan is a co-Principal Investigator of a recently completed trial using autologous MSCs to treat OA patients, a North American first. Dr. Viswanathan is the recipient of a Young Investigator’s Operational grant from The Arthritis Society (2015).
As a translational scientist, Dr. Viswanathan serves as a national regulatory and cell manufacturing consultant for projects across Canada. Dr. Viswanathan chairs the Cell Therapy Stakeholder Group, a bilateral group that engages Health Canada on cell therapy related policy issues. Dr. Viswanathan is a member of the Stem Cell Oversight Committee that advises the Governing Council of CIHR. Dr. Viswanathan is a founding member, and team leader, of the Manufacturing Committee of a network of Pan-Canadian cell manufacturing facilities called CellCAN. Dr. Viswanathan is leading international efforts to standardize MSC nomenclature and create reference materials for MSC research; she sits on the Standard Council of Canada’s Mirror Committee for International Organization for Standardization (ISO TC276) on Analytical Methods and Bioprocessing, and is on the steering and working committee of an international Standards Coordinating Body (SCB), and has recently been appointed as a formal liaison between ISO TC276 and the International Society of Cellular Therapy. Dr. Viswanathan is a co-editor of a translational book on MSCs, titled “Mesenchymal Stromal Cells: Translational Pathways towards Clinical Adoption.”
At the Cell Therapy Program at the University Health Network, Dr.Viswanathan has overseen clinical translation of over 13 cell-based therapies into Health Canada approved clinical investigations; these include immunotherapies, therapies for lysosomal storage disorders and acute kidney failure. She leads a multidisciplinary team specializing in clinical-grade cell processing and manufacturing, regulatory and ethics submissions, and implementation of clinical trials. She provided clinical translational and regulatory input to enable clinical trials for two companies: ExCellThera Inc. and Replicel LifesSciences Inc.

Dr. Viswanathan is investigating the use of anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory strategies, primarily cell-based, to treat inflammation in osteoarthritis (OA).  She is interested in how mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) impact inflammation in OA.  She has recently initiated a clinical trial as Co-PI , a first in North America (NCT02351011; clinical trials.gov), to examine the immunomodulatory role of autologous MSCs in OA.  Dr. Viswanathan is also evaluating new strategies to improve MSCs therapeutic potency including identifying appropriate sub-populations, engineering MSCs, and combining MSCs with carriers.  A related strategy involves re-programming resident monocytes/macrophages to a less inflammatory phenotype in the OA joint to ameliorate the microenvironment; this approach could be used as an adjuvant or stand-alone therapy for OA.  If proof-of-principle data is supportive, this research project may lead to the development of a new medical device to locally deliver re-programmed macrophages as a new treatment modality.  Dr. Viswanathan's research program also involves screening for small molecules that can re-program joint-resident macrophages to a less inflammatory phenotype and validating those small molecules in OA explant models and animal models.

For a list of Dr. Viswanathan's publications, please visit PubMed, Scopus or ORCID.

Scientist, Osteoarthritis Research Program, Division of Orthopedic Surgery, Schroeder Arthritis Institute, UHN
Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto
Cross Appointed Faculty, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto