Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic


351 Engineering Terrace
Mail Code 8904

Tel(212) 305-2304
Fax(212) 305-4692

Gordana and her team of engineers, clinicians, and scientists are developing innovative technologies for engineering and studying human tissues. They are interested in regenerative medicine, tissue models for stem cell research, and “organs-on-a-chip” platforms for use in precision medicine.

Research Interests

Regenerative engineering of the human lung, heart and bone Organs-on-a-chip platforms, (heart, liver, vasculature, skin, bone, tumors) Tissue models of disease Tissue platforms for drug screening Precision medicine

Their laboratory is located in the Columbia University Medical Center, and has state of the art facilities for human stem cell and tissue engineering research.  They are a founding member of the Stem Cell Core and Stem Cell Imaging Core, and are serving as the Bioreactor-Imaging Core of the national Tissue Engineering Resource Center founded to foster tissue engineering for medical impact.  They are actively collaborating with colleagues at Columbia University, nationwide, and around the world. To translate their science into new therapeutic modalities, their lab has launched three biotech companies: epiBone (epibone.com), Tara (tarabiosystems.com), and East River Biosolutions (eastriverbio.com) that are all based in New York City.

To engineer a range of human tissue/organ systems, they provide the cells with native-like environments, using biomaterial scaffolds (templates for tissue formation) and bioreactors (culture systems enabling environmental control and signaling). They design biomaterial scaffolds by processing the native tissue matrix to recapitulate the composition, architecture, and mechanical properties of the native cell niche, for applications ranging from biological research to clinical delivery of therapeutic materials and cells. They design bioreactors for engineering human-scale tissues for regenerative medicine: bone, cartilage, heart muscle, and lung. In each case, the bioreactor is custom-designed to accommodate a specific tissue (such as the exact anatomy of a bone graft), to provide perfusion (such as air ventilation and vascular perfusion for supporting the lung), and to apply physical forces (such as dynamic loading to cartilage and bone, electromechanical conditioning to the heart muscle, hydrodynamic shear to bone and vasculature).  They are also developing microscale bioreactors for studies of stem cell differentiation, modeling of diseases, and drug development. Bioreactors are integrated with imaging so that the changes in tissue structure and function can be monitored in real time.


  • 1986-1987 Fulbright Fellow, Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT


  • 2017 University Professor, Columbia University
  • 2011 The Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University
  • 2011 Professor of Medical Sciences, Columbia University
  • 2014 Faculty, Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University
  • 2015 Faculty, Center for Human Development, Columbia University
  • 2011 Biomedical Engineering track of Mayo Graduate Faculty, Mayo Clinic
  • 2005 Professor, Columbia University, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • 2005 Director, Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Columbia University
  • 2005 Visiting Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard-MIT Division for Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge MA
  • 2009 Honorary Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Belgrade
  • 2009 Co-director, Craniofacial Regeneration Center, Columbia University
  • 2002 Adjunct Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering. Tufts University, Medford MA
  • 1994 Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Tufts University
  • 1993–99 Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Belgrade University, Yugoslavia


  • American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Fellow; Board of Directors; Chair of the College of Fellows
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Association of Fulbright Scholars
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME)
  • Biomaterials Research Society
  • Biomedical Engineering Society, Fellow
  • European Tissue Engineering Society
  • International Society for Stem Cell Research
  • Orthopaedic Research Society, Editorial Board
  • Society for in vitro Biology (Cellular Toxicology Section, Chair, 2000-2004)
  • Society for in vitro Biology (Board of Directors, 2002-2006)
  • Society for Physical Regulation in Biology and Medicine
  • TERMIS (Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society), officer; Continental Council for North America; European Advisory Board
  • World Technology Network, Fellow


  • 2017 Robert A. Pritzker Award for 2017, Biomedical Engineering Society
  • 2017 NIBIB National Advisory Council speaker, NIH, January 24, 2017.
  • 2017 Doctorate Honoris Causa, University of Novi Sad, Serbia
  • 2015 2020 Bioengineering Peer Committee, National Academy of Engineering
  • 2016-2017 Chair, College of Fellows, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIBME)
  • 2016 Board of Directors, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIBME)
  • 2016 Award of the Materials Research Society for Lasting and Outstanding Contribution to Material Science and Engineering
  • 2014 National Academy of Inventors    
  • 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • 2014 National Academy of Medicine
  • 2014 Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014          
  • 2013 National Academy of Engineering, Executive Committee, Section for Bioengineering
  • 2013- National Academy of Engineering, Fritz J and Dolores H Russ Prize Committee
  • 2013 Founding Class, International Fellows of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
  • 2012 National Academy of Engineering
  • 2012 Academia Europea
  • 2012 Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  • 2012 Serbian National Academy of Engineering
  • 2012 Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)
  • 2010 2010 Clemson award of the Society of Biomaterials “for significant contributions to the literature on the science or technology of biomaterials”
  • 2009 New York Academy of Sciences
  • 2008 Hall of Fame, Women in Technology International (one of 5 leaders in science and technology in 2008)
  • 2008 US Section Head, Musculoskeletal Repair & Regeneration Section, Faculty 1000 of Medicine
  • 2007 Director’s lecture, NIH, October 17, 2007; the first woman engineer to receive this distinction
  • 2006 NASA Award for a patent “BMP-2, BMP-12, and BMP-13 Modulate in Vitro Development of Engineered Cartilage”
  • 2005 The Association of Orthopedic Research, Switzerland; team award “for the best science in orthopaedics” (with Meinel, Ziechner, Fajardo and Kaplan)
  • 2004 Outstanding Performance Medal, World Congress of in vitro Biology.
  • 2004 Space Act Award, NASA, for patent describing bioengineering of anterior cruciate ligaments
  • 2004 Space Act Award, NASA, for patent describing gene transfer of a growth factor to enhance tissue engineering of cartilage
  • 2000 American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), Fellow
  • 1997 Medal of recognition, Centennial of the Serbian Chemical Society, Belgrade YU
  • 1996 – 97 Space study of cartilage tissue engineering aboard “Mir”, in collaboration with NASA Johnson Space Center (co-lead of the 13-member team, with LE Freed); the longest cell experiment ever conducted in space; study reported in PNAS)
  • 1987 92 Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Biomass Committee
  • 1980 City of Belgrade award for the best PhD thesis in engineering
  • 1975 Belgrade Chamber of Commerce award for the best MS thesis in engineering


  • Freed, L.E., Langer, R., Martin, I., Pellis, N., Vunjak-Novakovic, G. Tissue engineering of cartilage in space, PNAS, Vol. 94: 13885-13890, 1997; commentary in same issue: 13380-13382; highlighted in JAMA Vastag B Cell biology update: A decade of simulating space on earth. JAMA 285(17): 2182-2182, 2001.
  • Radisic M, Marsano A, Maidhof R, Wang Y, Vunjak-Novakovic G. Perfusion bioreactors for controlling cellular environments. Nature Protocols 3(4):719-38, 2008
  • Godier-Furnemont A, Martens T, Koeckert M, Wan LQ, Parks J, Zhang G, Hudson J, and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Composite scaffold provides a cell delivery platform for cardiovascular repair PNAS 108(19): 7974-7979, 2011 Commentaries: Nature 472: 393, 2011; Circ Res 109 (5): 480-481, 2011.
  • Vunjak-Novakovic G and Scadden D.T. Biomimetic platforms for human stem cell research. Cell Stem Cell 8:252-261, 2011.
  • Wan LQ, Ronaldson K, Park M, Taylor G, Zhang Y, Gimble JM and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Micropatterned Mammalian Cells Exhibit Chiral Morphogenesis PNAS, vol. 108 (30): 1229512300, 2011; cover article; commentary, PNAS, vol. 108 (30): 12191–12192, 2011.
  • Eng GM, Lee WB, Parsa H, Chin C, Schneider J, Linkov G, and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Engineering complex three-dimensional cell microenvironments using docking hydrogel shapes. PNAS 110(12):4551-56, 2013.
  • Bhumiratana S, Eton R, Oungoulian S, Wan LQ, Ateshian GA and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Large, stratified and mechanically functional human cartilage grown in vitro by mesenchymal condensation. PNAS 111(19): 6940-45, 2014. Highlighted in Nature Rev Rheumatol Onoura S: Dishing up functional human cartilage. 10:321, 2014.
  • Villasante A, Marturano A and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Bioengineered human tumor within a bone niche. Biomaterials 35: 5785-5794, 2014. Editor’s Choice, Science Translational Medicine K. L. Spiller, How to Build a Better Bone Tumor. Sci. Transl. Med. 6, 235ec81, 2014
  • Kim J, O’Neill JD, N. Dorrello NV, Bacchetta M and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Targeted delivery of liquid micro-volumes into the lung. PNAS 112 (37) 11530-11535, 2015. Highlighted in Science Translational Medicine, Editor’s choice, K Spiller: Super model. 7 (307)307, 2015.
  • Vunjak-Novakovic G. A protein for healing infarcted hearts. News & Views. Nature 525, 461–462, 2015. Highlighted in New England Journal of Medicine, Journal Watch by the Editor, October 15, 2015.
  • Bhumiratana S, Bernhard JC, Alfi DM, Yeager K, Eton RE, Bova J, Shah F, Gimble JM, Lopez MJ, Eisig SB, and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Tissue engineered autologous grafts for facial bone reconstruction. Science Translational Medicine 8 (343) 343ra83, 2016.
  • Eng G, Lee BW, Protas L, Gagliardi M, Brown K, Kass RS, Keller G, Robinson RB and Vunjak-Novakovic G. Autonomous beating rate adaptation in human stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. Nature Communications 7:10312 doi: 10.1038/ncomms10312, 2016.
  • Ogle BM, Bursac N, Domian I, Huang NF, Menasche P, Murry C, Pruitt B, Radisic M, Wu J, Wu S, Zhang J, Zimmermann WH, Vunjak-Novakovic G. Distilling Complexity to Advance Cardiac Tissue Engineering. Science Translational Medicine 8, (342) 342ps13, 2016.
  • Reilein A, Melamed D, Park K, Berg A, Cimetta E, Tandon N, Vunjak-Novakovic G, Finkelstein S, and Kalderon D. Distinct direct stem cell derivatives defined by stem cell location and graded Wnt signaling. Nature Cell Biology 10: 433-444, 2017.
  • O’Neill JO, Guenthart BA, Kim J, Scott Chicotka S, Queen D, Fung K, Marboe C, Romanov A, Huang SXL, Snoeck H-W, Bacchetta M, Vunjak-Novakovic G. Cross-circulation for extracorporeal support and recovery of the lung. Nature Biomedical Engineering Epubished ahead of print, March 7, 2017