For envisioning a path toward lab-grown organs that could revolutionize transplants
Gabriel Liguori was just 2 years old when he underwent surgery to correct a congenital heart defect, a condition that required years of follow-up care and hospital visits. Those experiences inspired him to become a doctor—one who has a bold vision for regenerative medicine.
In 2019, Liguori launched TissueLabs, a startup working to produce the world’s first bioartificial heart using 3D printers. The company has already developed proprietary bioprinters and biomaterials and now has set a target to create a lab-grown heart ready for clinical trials within 15 years, Liguori says. The project is designed to eliminate waitlists and reduce the risk of rejections—two game-changers for all organ transplants.
“The success of this endeavor would also pave the way for the development of other artificial organs, helping save countless lives and addressing the chronic shortage of donor organs,” Liguori says. “Our work has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and improve the quality of life for millions of people worldwide.”
With a medical degree as well as PhDs in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery and in cardiovascular regenerative medicine, Liguori’s scientific credentials are certainly impressive. But achieving TissueLabs’ ambitious goals will also take serious project management skills.
“Through effective project management, I can drive innovation, foster collaboration and ensure our team is working effectively toward our shared goals,” he says.
To manage such a long-term initiative with myriad unknowns, Liguori breaks down the work into smaller milestones, using iterative and hybrid approaches whenever possible.
“The timing on the biology side is very different,” he says. “You cannot tell the cells what they need to do and then expect that in the next sprint they will have done everything you expected. Sometimes they just don’t grow fast enough.”
That same innovative ethos drives the other side of the business in product development. Splitting his time between Brazil and Switzerland, Liguori and his team of researchers, engineers, software developers and material scientists also develop commercial biomaterials and 3D printers as a way to support the company’s clinical research.
Through it all, he leads with empathy. “Everyone has wishes and reasons for what they do—and you must understand those,” he says. “But you need to understand how to align their purpose with yours and bring them all together to work in the same direction.”
And that’s when the magic happens. “I have come to understand the importance of collaboration, perseverance and innovation in achieving ambitious goals,” he says. “The experience has also reinforced my belief that we should never stop learning and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”
Q&A: Gabriel Liguori on creativity, pushing boundaries and the inspiration of Vespa
What’s your project management superpower?
My ability to maintain a clear vision of our long-term goals while navigating the complexities of short-term objectives. This balance has been crucial in establishing and sustaining TissueLabs’ dual business model, which encompasses both cutting-edge research and innovative product development.
How are young people changing the world of projects now?
Young people are revolutionizing the world of projects with their boundless creativity, determination and eagerness to embrace cutting-edge technologies. Fearless when it comes to taking risks, they possess a strong desire to learn and contribute to the ongoing advancements. At TissueLabs, young people bring innovative ideas and fresh perspectives to the table—and they consistently challenge traditional approaches and push the boundaries of what’s possible in our industry. By nurturing and supporting their ideas and ambitions, we can ensure a future of continuous breakthroughs and advancements in various fields.
What’s the biggest challenge facing young project leaders right now?
It’s essential for young project leaders to remain adaptable and resilient as unexpected challenges and opportunities emerge. They must cultivate robust communication and collaboration skills since successful projects frequently depend on harmonious cooperation with diverse teams and stakeholders.
Fast forward: What’s one way managing projects will have changed over the next decade?
One significant change will likely be the increasing importance of data-driven decision-making. AI and advanced analytics will provide project managers with valuable insights into project performance, team dynamics and resource allocation, enabling more informed and accurate decisions. This increased reliance on data will help project managers optimize their strategies, identify potential issues earlier and ultimately drive better outcomes.
What movie are you recommending right now?
Enrico Piaggio: Vespa. This inspiring film tells the story of the iconic Vespa scooter and the resilience and innovation required to transform a post-World War II Italian factory into an enduring global brand. The story serves as an example of how creativity and perseverance can overcome challenges to revolutionize an industry.
What famous person would you want to recruit for your team?
Elon Musk. His track record in electric vehicles, renewable energy and space exploration is a testament to his innovative thinking and ability to tackle ambitious goals. In a way, our mission to create an artificial heart parallels Musk’s audacious goal of colonizing Mars: Both endeavors push the boundaries of human achievement and require overcoming significant technological challenges.