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Remembering Eugene Bell

MIT biotech pioneer.
October 15, 2007

A November 19 memorial service at MIT will honor the life of longtime faculty member and biotech pioneer Eugene Bell, who died in June at 88. In his MIT lab, the cell biolo­gist used human cells and collagen to develop a material that could be grafted onto the skin of burn victims and other severely injured patients without rejection and with very little scarring. He also devised ways to grow “skin equivalents” for blood vessels or organ tissue. His research led to what is now known as regenerative medicine.

After 30 years on the faculty, Bell retired from MIT in 1986 and went on to found two biotech companies, Organogenesis and TEI Biosciences. His most recent research focused on adult stem cells, and he was working in his lab the day before his death.

“As a youth he was always someone wanting the world to be a good place,” says his wife, Millicent (Lang) Bell, a scholar of English literature. “As one grows older, sometimes one puts such thoughts aside–but he never did.” Bell had recently donated more than $1 million to MIT to establish the Eugene Bell Career Development Professorship of Tissue Engineering.

Bell was known for his dry wit, philosophical perspective, and love of literature. As recently as summer 2006, he and his wife took daily mile-long swims in Buzzards Bay; in winter, they swam together in the MIT pool. Bell leaves his wife; their children, Tony Bell and Meg Fofonoff; and four grandchildren. His memorial service is at noon on the 19th at MIT’s chapel.