Kyriacos A. Athanasiou
Kyriacos A. Athanasiou (Greek: Κυριάκος Αθανασίου) is a bioengineer who has contributed significantly to both academic advancements as well as high-technology industries. He is currently a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Davis where he also served as the Chair of the Biomedical Engineering department. Before joining the University of California in 2009, he was the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor at Rice University. He has published hundreds of scientific articles detailing structure-function relationships and tissue engineering approaches for articular cartilage, the knee meniscus, and the temporomandibular joint.
Early life and education
Athanasiou was born in Larnaca, Cyprus in 1960. He went to Sotir Elementary School and St. George High School. In 1978, he graduated valedictorian from high school and then joined the army for 26 months as part of his mandatory military duty. During that time, he trained at an infantry cadet school eventually becoming a second lieutenant. In August 1980, he came to the United States to attend college. He spent his first year at Brescia College in Owensboro, Kentucky. He then moved with relatives in Long Island, New York.
Athanasiou received his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from New York Institute of Technology at Old Westbury in 1984. He obtained his master's degree from Columbia University in 1985, his Masters of Philosophy from Columbia University in 1987, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Columbia University in 1989.
Kyriacos Athanasiou has established one of the most recognized research groups in bioengineering, specializing in the cartilages of the musculoskeletal system. Upon obtaining his Ph.D. in early 1989, Athanasiou became an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He became an associate professor in 1994. He was recruited to Rice University as a full professor of bioengineering at the end of 1999. His group has worked extensively on cartilages of the musculoskeletal system both in terms of characterization but also in efforts to achieve healing or repair of the clinically complex problems of cartilage afflictions, including trauma and osteoarthritis.
Athanasiou published one of the first papers on the use of biodegradable scaffolds as carriers of growth factors to heal cartilage defects in vivo. Four of his papers on identifying structure-function relationships in articular cartilage are standard in the field. His group has directed his attention to tissue engineering the jaw joint disc (TMJ disc) and the knee meniscus, whose degradation is responsible for a large number of debilitating problems. TMJ disc degeneration and meniscus injuries result in arthritic-like diseases that strike otherwise healthy young adults. In addition to tissue-level work, Athanasiou has established a highly innovative program to understand how single cartilage cells behave under direct and controlled biomechanical loads, not only in terms of deformation but also in terms of changes in gene expression. This work represents the first measurement of gene levels at the single cell level under varying biomechanical conditions. His group has also demonstrated the fabrication of entire sections of articular cartilage by self-assembly of cells, without the use of any scaffolds. Their group also demonstrated that hydrostatic pressure in conjunction with growth factors can have synergistic effects on the functional properties of engineered cartilage. The biomechanical, histological, transcriptional, and biochemical properties of this engineered cartilage approach those of native articular cartilage. An interesting paper on why cartilage healing is so difficult was also published in Science (journal) in 2012. A relevant podcast is also available.
His list of publications can be found here: athanasioulab/publications.
His UC Davis website, which also provides a link to his lab website, is provided here: Athanasiou UC Davis website.
In addition to his academic accomplishments, Athanasiou is known for his significant contributions in co-founding five companies based on technologies co-developed by his group. His first company Osteobiologics, founded in 1993, was based, among other inventions, on the development of acellular scaffolds for the treatment of focal cartilage lesions. This was the first ever implant for this application. The company was acquired by Smith & Nephew in 2006. Another company co-founded by Athanasiou is Vidacare based on Athanasiou et al.'s patents on intraosseous infusion; this company was acquired by Teleflex Medical in 2013.
Service to the biomedical engineering profession
In the Summer of 2002, Professor Athanasiou was elected President of the Biomedical Engineering Society. He served as BMES President from 2003-04. During his tenure, BMES assumed accreditation responsibilities becoming a member of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Also, the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, the flagship publication of BMES, changed publishers and format. Regional industry sections of BMES were also established and the first international affiliates program was initiated.
In November 2012, he received the Nemitsas Prize, which is considered to be the Nobel prize equivalent for people of Cypriot descent (NemitsasFoundation.org). Please also see his speech in Greek here: (Athanasiou speech at Nemitsas Foundation ceremony). In 2015, he was elected to the National Academy of Inventors.
Other honors include: The 2014 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, College of Engineering, University of California, Davis
The H.R. Lissner Medal “for sustained and outstanding leadership in biomechanical engineering, and for pioneering work in soft tissue regeneration,” American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2014
Wall Street Journal's 2012 Innovation Award Competition: OnControl Bone Marrow System wins overall bronze technology innovation award; also top award in the 'medical devices' category. VidaCare (co-founder, co-inventor of technology)
«Τιμής ένεκεν» recognition by the town of Voroklini, Cyprus, November 30, 2012 (Voroklini is his father’s ancestral town) presented by the Minister of Health, Dr. Agrotou
«Τιμής ένεκεν» recognition by the town of Athienou in Cyprus, November 29, 2012 (Athienou is his mother’s ancestral town) presented by the Mayor
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2012
Elected to the Board of Trustees (εξωτερικό μέλος Διοικητικού Συμβουλίου) of the University of Thessaly, Greece, November 19, 2012
The Nemitsas Prize 2012 (single laureate of Cyprus’ largest award provided by the Nemitsas Foundation; “The prize includes: 1) Certificate, 2) Solid Gold Medal, 3) Monetary Award of 50.000 Euro. The ceremony will take place in the new hall of the Presidential Palace, which has been especially constructed for the needs of the Presidency of Cyprus to the E.U. The ceremony is under the auspices of His Excellency the President of the Republic, who shall present the prize. The event is also included in the official program of the Presidency of Cyprus to the E.U."
Distinguished Services Award, Biomedical Engineering Society, 2011
Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), 2010
Editor-in-Chief, Annals of Biomedical Engineering (the flagship journal of the Biomedical Engineering Society; Publisher: Springer), 2009
Wall Street Journal's 2008 Innovation Award Competition: Overall winner (over 700 entries in all fields); also winner of top prize in the 'medical devices' category. VidaCare (co-founder, inventor of technology)
The Thomas A. Edison Patent Award “for addressing the significant health problem of articular cartilage repair through the invention of a patented technology, the only implant used worldwide to treat focal cartilage lesions in the knee,” American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2008
The Hershel M. Rich Outstanding Invention Award, 2008 (for invention entitled, "Tissue penetrating device")
The Presidential Award for Mentoring (from President Leebron, Rice University), 2006
The Hershel M. Rich Outstanding Invention Award, 2006 (for invention entitled, "Self assembling process")
Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), Inaugural Class, 2005
The Van C. Mow Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2005
Winner, 2005 Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA) competition for VidaCare’s product EZ-I0 intraosseous delivery device (inventor of technology) President, Biomedical Engineering Society, Oct. 2003-Oct. 2004
The Graduate Student Association Teaching and Mentoring Award, Rice University, 2003
The Presidential Guest Scientific Speaker, Arthroscopy Association of North America, 2003
Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2001
Presidential Award, Biomedical Engineering Society, 2000
The 1998 Imagineer Award—Mind Science Foundation, Bexar County, Texas
The 1992 Young Scientist Award—American Society of Biomechanics
- Athanasiou, K.A.; Korvick, D.; Schenck, R.C.: Biodegradable implants for the treatment of osteochondral defects in a goat model. Tissue Engineering, Vol. 3(4): 363-374, 1997.
- Leipzig, N.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Static compression of single chondrocytes catabolically modifies single cell gene expression. Biophysical Journal, 94(6):2412-2422, 2008
- Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: A self-assembling process in articular cartilage tissue engineering. Tissue Engineering, 12(4):969-979, 2006
- Ofek, G.; Revell, C.M.; Hu, J.C.; Allison, D.D.; Grande-Allen, K.J.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Matrix development in self-assembly of articular cartilage. PLoS ONE, 3(7): e2795. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002795, 2008
- Elder, B.D.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Synergistic and additive effects of hydrostatic pressure and growth factors on tissue formation. PLoS ONE, 3(6): e2341. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002341, 2008
- Huey, D.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Unlike bone, cartilage regeneration remains elusive, Science, 338:917-921, DOI: 10.1126/science.1222454, 2012
- Full show- http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6109/981.2.full. Athanasiou's segment is at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6109/917/suppl/DC2