CBER has more than a quarter of century of history. Its predecessor, the Orthopedic and Biomechanical Engineering Center, was founded in 1990 with Ralph Cope as the founding director and Michael Keefe as co-director. Michael Santare took the directorship in 1993. Since its early years, the center has served as an experimental platform where new ideas are exchanged and interdisciplinary teams are formulated. In 1998, Thomas Buchanan became the director and changed the center’s name and focus.

In 2002, the Center was awarded an NIH Biomedical Research Partnership grant and an NIH COBRE (Center of Biomedical Research Excellence) grant with Buchanan as PI and faculty from Mechanical Engineering and Physical Therapy as investigators. Buchanan led the successful renewal of the COBRE grant twice, in 2007 and 2012, and secured total funding of $30M over the past 15 years. Kurt Manal served as the fourth director of CBER from 2004-2008, during which time many collaborative research projects were initiated, especially through the successful pilot research mechanism built into the COBRE grants.

In 2008, Jill Higginson became the first female director. Building on the Center’s strong research capability and facility, Higginson initiated the CBER summer research program to promote undergraduate research. The initiative was very successful, and the Center was awarded two training grants by NIH and NSF in 2015 to support interdisciplinary senior design projects and summer REU scholars. Santare took the directorship again in 2014 and has worked to increase collaborations with clinicians and industry. CBER now facilitates the translation of fundamental and applied research to patient care by supporting the design, characterization, validation and marketing of several surgical devices. In 2017, Liyun Wang was selected as center director to continue to promote interdisciplinary research and training of the next generation of scientists.