Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic

Principal Investigator

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic is a bioengineer appointed University Professor, the highest academic rank at Columbia University reserved for only a few active professors out of 4,000, as the first engineer in the history of Columbia to receive this highest distinction. She is also the Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences, and a faculty in the Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, College of Dental Medicine, the Center for Human Development and the Mortimer B Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. She directs the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering that is serving as a home for the NIH-funded Tissue Engineering Resource Center, and Columbia’s Center for Dental and Craniofacial Research. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Belgrade in Serbia where she was a faculty until 1993 (as full professor), holds a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, and was a Fulbright Fellow at MIT.

The focus of her lab is on engineering functional human tissues for use in regenerative medicine and patient-specific “organs-on-a-chip” for studies of human pathophysiology. She published 3 books and 415 journal articles, including those in Nature, Cell, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Medicine, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Communications, Nature Protocols, Science Advances, PNAS, Cell Stem Cell, Science Translational Medicine. With the impact factor h=128, she is one of the most highly cited individuals. She gave 460 invited talks, and has 75 licensed, issued, published and pending patents. With her students, she founded four biotech companies: epiBone (epibone.com), Tara (tarabiosystems.com), Xylyx (xylyxbio.com), and Immplacate (immplacatehealth.com).

Dr Vunjak-Novakovic is serving on the Council of the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), the HHMI Scientific Review Board and on numerous Editorial Boards and Scientific Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors. She was the Chair of the College of Fellows (2016-17) of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). She was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame "for developing biological substitutes to restore, maintain or improve tissue function", and received the Clemson Award of the Biomaterials Society “for significant contributions to the literature on biomaterials” (2009), the Pritzker Award of the Biomedical Engineering Society (2017) and Shu Chien Achievement Award (2018).  She gave the Director's lecture at the NIH, as the first woman engineer to receive this distinction. Her team received the 2019 TERMIS award for innovation and commercialization. In 2021, she is receiving the highest recognition of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Galletti Award. She was elected to the New York Academy of Sciences for contributions to biomedical engineering, Academia Europaea for contributions to translational research, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts for contributions to biology and chemistry. She is a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, a Fellow of the AAAS, a Founding Fellow of the International Society for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, one of the Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers for 2014.

Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic is also part of CELL-MET, a multi-institutional National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in Cellular Metamaterials (EEC-1647837). CELL-MET aims to grow functional and clinically significant heart tissue while simultaneously developing a talented and diverse workforce to tackle future challenges in synthetic tissues engineering.

She was decorated by the Order of Karadjordje Star - Serbia’s highest honor, and elected to the National Academy of Engineering (the first women faculty at Columbia University), the National Academy of Medicine (the first engineer at Columbia University), the National Academy of Inventors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.