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Pediatric urologist Dr. Anthony Atala to receive 2022 Jacobson Innovation Award of the American College of Surgeons for pioneering work in regenerative medicine

Dr. Atala leads an interdisciplinary team that has developed 15 clinically used tissue applications and is working on more than 40 tissues and organs

June 10, 2022

CHICAGO: Anthony Atala, MD, FACS, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 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 international surgical award from the ACS honors living surgeons who are innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery. It is made possible through a gift from Julius H. Jacobson II, MD, FACS, and his wife Joan. Dr. Jacobson is a general vascular surgeon known for his pioneering work in the development of microsurgery.

Anthony Atala, MD, FACS
Anthony Atala, MD, FACS

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.

Dr. Atala’s remarkable work has expanded, and today, WFIRM is a leader in translating scientific discovery into regenerative medicine clinical therapies. 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.”

Honors and Awards

Dr. Atala’s innovative work has been recognized as one of Time magazine's Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs 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.

Dr. Atala was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences (now the National Academy of Medicine) in 2011 and inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. In 2014, he was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors as a Charter Fellow and has been a strong and thoughtful contributor to the ACS Surgical Forum and Surgical Research Committee. He presented the prestigious Martin Memorial Named Lecture during the ACS Clinical Congress in 2010 entitled, Regenerative Medicine: New Approaches to Health Care. 

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. 

A National Leader in Regenerative Medicine

Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Atala has led or served on several national professional and government committees, including the National Institutes of Health Working Group on Cells and Developmental Biology, the National Institutes of Health Bioengineering Consortium, and the National Cancer Institute's Advisory Board. He is a founder of the Tissue Engineering Society, the Regenerative Medicine Society, the Regenerative Medicine Foundation, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, the Regenerative Medicine Development Organization, the Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing Society, and the Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing Consortium.

A Prolific Author and Inventor

Dr. Atala is the editor in chief of Stem Cells-Translational Medicine and BioPrinting. He is an author or coauthor of more than 800 journal articles and has applied for or received over 250 national and international patents.

About Anthony Atala, MD, FACS

Dr. Atala was born in Lima, Peru, and moved to the United States with his family when he was a young boy. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Miami before attending medical school at the University of Louisville, where he also completed his surgical residency training. Near the end of his residency, he applied for a pediatric urology fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital, which was transitioning from a one-year to a two-year program to include a year of research prior to the clinical year. He embarked on a fellowship there in its new form with encouragement from Alan B. Retik, MD, FACS, founder of Boston Children’s first department of urology. Dr. Atala arrived in Boston and began attending seminars, which led him to explore whether uroepithelial cells could be grown and expanded ex vivo, comparable to skin. This additional year of research sparked what has become his career of transformational research, discovery, and innovation with his work focused on growing human cells, tissues, and organs.

Dr. Atala spent the first portion of his academic career at Harvard Medical School before being recruited in 2004 as professor and chair of the department of urology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. After moving his laboratory from Boston, he became the founding Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where his research and work has produced extraordinary results for nearly two decades.

About the American College of Surgeons

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has approximately 90,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. "FACS" designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.