Dr. Laura E. Niklason, newly named as the Nicholas Greene Professor of Anesthesiology and Biomedical Engineering, is an internationally recognized researcher in cardiovascular tissue engineering.
Niklason’s research program has several areas of focus. In her work with engineered arteries, she is conducting preclinical animal studies to validate the method for generating engineered tissues that are available “off the shelf.” Her research on vascular grafts focuses on immune/inflammatory response minimization to these off-the-shelf tissues, and on the long-term function of the grafts in the arterial circulation. In addition, Niklason is developing tissue-engineering approaches to generating vascularized cardiac muscle, as well as vascularized lung tissue. She is also actively researching vascular remodeling that is associated with various disease states, including atherosclerosis and arterial vasospasm.
A graduate of the University of Illinois, Niklason earned her Ph.D. in biophysics at the University of Chicago. Subsequently she received her M.D. from the University of Michigan, where she completed her internship. She completed residency training in anesthesia, and fellowship training in critical care medicine, at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Simulateously, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developing techniques for the tissue engineering of autologous arteries. Niklason joined the faculty at Duke University in 1998, continuing her work in cardiovascular tissue engineering, and founded a biotechnology company designed to bring tissue-engineered cardiovascular products to the clinic. In 2006, Niklason came to Yale, where she is expanding her research program in tissue engineering of blood vessels and lung, as well as understanding the basic aspects of cellular aging.
Niklason has garnered national and international recognition for her work in cardiovascular tissue engineering, receiving the Discover Magazine award for Technological Innovation in 2000. She was the winner of Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Innovators Award for 2011, for development of “off the shelf” tissue-engineered vascular graft to treat patients with vascular disease. Also in 2011, she won the Frost & Sullivan Growth, Innovation & Leadership Award, for development of engineered vascular graft. (Both awards went to Humacyte Inc., which Niklason founded.) Time Magazine cited Niklason’s development of an engineered lung as one of the “50 Best Inventions of 2010.”
In 2014, Niklason was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors. In October 2015, the Yale professor was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, which recognizes professionals who have made outstanding contributions in fields such as the medical sciences health care, and public health, and who have demonstrated a commitment to volunteer service.