Anthony Atala, MD – NCMS member since 2004

Pediatric urologist Dr. Anthony Atala, MD, FACS, of Winston-Salem will be presented with the 2022 Jacobson Innovation Award of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) at a dinner held in his honor this evening in Chicago. He is currently the George Link, Jr. Professor and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and the W. H. Boyce Professor and Chair of Urology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The award honors living surgeons who are innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery.

Dr. Atala is a pediatric urologist, researcher, professor, and mentor who is renowned for developing foundational principles for regenerative medicine research, which holds great promise for people who require tissue substitution and reconstruction. Dr. Atala and his team successfully implanted the world’s first laboratory-grown bladder in 1999.

He currently leads an interdisciplinary team of more than 450 researchers and physicians. Beyond many other world firsts, WFIRM has also developed 15 clinically used technology-based applications, including muscle, urethra, cartilage, reproductive tissues, and skin. Currently, the Institute is working on more than 40 tissues and organs.

Through Dr. Atala’s vision, ingenuity, and leadership, the WFIRM team has developed specialized 3-D printers to engineer tissues. This work is accomplished by using cells to create various tissues and organs, including miniature organs called organoids to create body-on-a-chip systems. Dr. Atala and his team also discovered a stem cell population derived from both the amniotic fluid and the placenta, which are currently being used for clinically relevant research applications.

Dr. Atala’s theory is that every cell within the human body should be capable of regeneration. What reproduces naturally inside the body should also have the same capabilities of reproduction outside of the body. According to Dr. Atala, “the key benefit to the approach of cell and tissue regeneration is that a patient will not reject their own cells or tissue, which is always a concern related to traditional organ match transplantation.”

In addition to this award, Dr. Atala has also been recognized as one of Time magazine’s Top 10 Medical reakthroughs in 2007, Smithsonian’s 2010 Top Science Story of the Year, and U.S. News & World Report’s honor as one of 14 top Pioneers of Medical Progress in the 21st Century. He has been named by Scientific American as one of the world’s most influential people in biotechnology, by Life Sciences Intellectual Property Review as one of 50 Key Influencers in the Life Sciences Intellectual Property arena, and by Nature Biotechnology as one of the top 10 Translational Researchers in the World.

Other honors include being the recipient of the U.S. Congress-funded Christopher Columbus Foundation Award, which is bestowed on a living American that currently is working on a discovery that will significantly affect society; the World Technology Award in Health and Medicine for achieving significant and lasting progress; the Edison Science/Medical Award; and the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award.