00:00 AM

Bioengineering Appoints Harvard Medical School Cancer Researcher Ioannis Zervantonakis as Assistant Professor

PITTSBURGH (September 13, 2019) … Ioannis Zervantonakis joined the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering on September 1, 2019 as assistant professor of bioengineering and a member of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Zervantonakis comes from a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School where he developed systems biology approaches to study drug resistance and tumor-fibroblast interactions in the lab of Joan Brugge, Director of the Ludwig Center and Louise Foote Pfeiffer Professor of Cell Biology. 

For his doctoral studies, Zervantonakis worked in the lab of Roger Kamm, Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Biological and Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his research focused on the design of microfluidic devices to study cancer metastasis.

He currently runs the Tumor Microenvironment Engineering Laboratory where they employ a quantitative approach that integrates microfluidics, systems biology modeling, and in vivo experiments to investigate the role of the tumor microenvironment on breast and ovarian cancer growth, metastasis, and drug resistance. 

He explained, “Understanding cell behavior in native tumor microenvironments and developing new strategies to deliver therapeutics directly to tumor cells are critical in improving and extending patients’ lives.”

The tumor microenvironment is the collection of cells, molecules, and blood vessels that surround tumor cells. Tumor growth, metastasis, and response to therapy is governed by a complex interaction network between tumor cells and those components.

“Our group aims to develop novel bioengineered tumor microenvironment platforms that will allow us to model, measure, and control the interactions between cancer cells and their environment at the single cell level,” said Zervantonakis.

The goal of their research is to discover biomarkers that guide new drug development and improve prognosis, develop new strategies to optimize existing treatment protocols, and engineer microfabricated tools that enable screening and personalization of cancer therapies.

“We are thrilled to welcome Yannis as a bioengineering faculty member,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and the Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “His focus on linking tumor microenvironment to cancer growth, metastasis, and drug resistance and his expertise in microfluidics and systems biology nicely complement the research efforts within the Department of Bioengineering and the efforts of the thriving cancer-related research community at the university as a whole.”


About Ioannis Zervantonakis

Ioannis (Yannis) received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, and his masters degree in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Munich in 2006. From 2006-2007 he was a graduate research assistant at the  Ultrasound Elasticity laboratory (Prof. Elisa Konofagou) in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York. Yannis completed his doctoral studies at MIT in the mechanobiology laboratory (Prof. Roger Kamm) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in December 2012. Since January 2013 he has been a postdoctoral fellow in cancer biology at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Prof. Joan Brugge and has been awarded the DoD Breast Cancer Postdoctoral Fellowship (June 2014) and the NIH Pathway to Independence K99/R00 Award (September 2017).