Love another person, even when they lose themselves, when their hygiene is failing, when they don’t eat, when they don’t care if they are in the light or the darkness. When they have given up and you want to give them a kick and put them to bed. Love, even when you’re not sure it’s worth it. Admire them, even if they look at you without actually seeing you.”
These words belong to Eleni Antoniadou, the Greek woman who undertook the first successful artificial tracheal transplant in the history of medicine for her young, 36-year-old patient, who was in the final stage of cancer, giving him the gift of a longer life.
She added to her spiritual and practical guidance: “P.S. The most beautiful roses were held today by the wife of my patient who was waiting for a transplant. They were drawn on the back side of his medical chart because he couldn’t leave the hospital to go and buy them for her.”
Antoniadou is a researcher in the interdisciplinary fields of regenerative medicine and bioastronautics, specializing in the regeneration of artificial organs from stem cells as an alternative therapeutic pathway for transplants. She works on the creation of cerebral implants, artificial skin, muscles, ears, nerves and the esophagus.
She has designed a series of bioreactors and tissue engineering tools and has created the world’s first amniotic fluid stem cell bank. Additionally, she has conducted experimental studies on the development of bio-nanotubes as drug carriers for targeted cancer therapies, as well as clinical trials for stem cell therapies for lung cancer.
The co-founder of the Donor-Free Transplant startup, Antoniadou has been recognized as one of the BBC’s 100 Most Powerful Women and was also chosen as one of the Top 10 Champions for Equality in the UK. She was voted Female of the Year in 2013 and Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 in Great Britain. In 2016, she was awarded the Giuseppe Sciacca International Science and Research Award at the Vatican.
Antoniadou has also been ranked #3 in the U.S. health sector by Forbes on their 30-under-30 list; was a Cartier Laureate for USA 2014; as well as a 40-under-40 European Young Leader in 2017. Antoniadou participates on the Advisory Committee of the Research and Analysis Organization, DIANEOSIS, in Greece and has been honored by the European Patent Organization in Germany.
When one reads the biography and the achievements of Eleni Antoniadou, it’s like going uphill – it’s breathtaking. The “gorgeous little girl,” who always excelled in school, received her diploma from the University of Thessaly Department of Computer Science with a degree in Biomedicine and then left for London, where she completed her postgraduate studies at the University College of London (UCL) in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine. She went on to Illinois University in the United States and shortly thereafter, NASA made her a job offer to work in the field of life sciences – focusing on the effects of radiation on the central nervous system. “My biggest desire is a trip into space. Our galaxy contains about 400 billion stars. It would be very pessimistic if I did not have hope for discovering an alien form of life. Whenever I travel to a new place, I always get ‘thirsty’ for the next new place I will go to. And as late as I come back from work in the evening, I always look forward to the next sunrise.”
It is important for Antoniadou to appreciate the value of things in life, to learn and to want to be useful, not simply successful. “To do this, you have to invest in the evolution and development of yourself and fill yourself up with many different experiences.”
Antoniadou applies these words in practice. An activist against the illicit trafficking of human organs, she travels (as a volunteer) to various medical missions in Peru, Uganda, and Costa Rica, where she saves lives from organ trafficking. It is for this reason that she leads a company that aims to create artificial organs, as an alternative to traditional transplant methods, that ultimately has the goal of ending this nightmare. “At Transplants Without Donors LLC, we create artificial organs. By doing so, we seek to put an end to the interception of human organs, which is unfortunately booming in the third world. Artificial organs, once considered a science fiction scenario, is now a reality, and I hope we will soon see the revolution that this therapeutic pathway will bring to the clinical world.”
Antoniadou is a prime example of a way of life, thinking, and humanity, a role model for young children, but also for many adults who have not found their purpose yet. She speaks using the Greek language with a philologist’s ease, has the values of a philosopher and big dreams for the future of mankind. “I do not think my motivation is to realize all my dreams – my motivation is to get to a place where, with confidence and courage, I will push the finish line to a more distant and ambitious location. I believe there are people who want to be (an astronaut, Olympic champion, prime minister, woman of the year, etc.) and others who want to do. Those in this second category are those who succeed in transforming the world and rewriting the rules from the beginning.”
Antoniadou became the first Greek scientist Barbie Role Model Doll, designed by the toy company Mattel, to mark and celebrate the 60th anniversary of International Women’s Day. “I hope the girls that will be inspired by this campaign are eager for positive change, have a conviction of optimism and self-esteem, fight for those less fortunate, and never forget to whisper to themselves in good and in bad times, “You can be whatever you dream to be!”