The new George and Angelina Kostas Research Center for Cardiovascular Nanomedicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute began operations this month after receiving a generous gift from George J. and Angelina P. Kostas. The gift is the largest philanthropic gift ever given in support of cardiovascular nanomedicine and could revolutionize the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
The groundbreaking center will foster international collaboration and bring together top laboratory and physician scientists from the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and the Houston Methodist Research Institute Department of Nanomedicine to investigate how emerging technologies in nanomedicine can be used to heal damaged hearts and vascular tissue. This gift will fund a yearly international annual meeting in Houston on cardiovascular nanomedicine that involves scientists worldwide in order to serve as a platform for the exchange of ideas.
The Kostases, American-born children of Greek immigrants, have a long tradition of philanthropic gifts, including establishment of The George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security (2010) and The George J. Kostas Nanoscale Technology and Manufacturing Research Center at Northeastern University (2003) in Boston, George Kostas’ alma mater. The George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security is a secure building at Northeastern University, Burlington Campus. Its mission is to conduct classified research to protect Americans in the face of 21st century risks. Northeastern awarded him in 2008 an honorary Doctorate of Sciences and the President’s Medallion award. After his retirement from Conoco in 1972, where he was manager of the Organometallics Division, he founded and has been president of TESCO (Techno Economic Services Inc.) for 30 years. Under his leadership, TESCO developed a revolutionary new process, based on his patents, termed “Xenoclad”, which plates aluminum in an atomic form on metal substrates to render them resistant to corrosion. George Kostas was recruited in 1943, along with seven other engineers, to start and operate the first U.S. synthetic rubber manufacturing plant which was already being built in Baytown, Texas. In 1946, Kostas was appointed a member of the U.S. Research & Development Committee and served in this capacity until 1955 when the government decided to exit the synthetic rubber program.
Angelina, “Lea,” a woman of deep faith, grace, and warmth, and devoted lifelong member of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, served as a member of the Philoptochos charitable society for 70 years, and board member for 40 years. During World War II, Lea served as a spotter for enemy aircraft over the Houston area. Married for 62 years, George and Angelina are the parents of four, talented daughters. The Kostas family has been generous supporters of the Annunciation and St. Basil’s Greek Orthodox Churches of Houston. They built the St. George Chapel and then donated it to the Cathedral. St. Basil’s church honored Mr. Kostas by naming the Education Center in his honor. In 2008, they honored Lea Kostas by naming the Auditorium in her honor.
The Kostas Center will be directed by Houston Methodist Research Institute President & CEO Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., and the Heart & Vascular Center Medical Director Alan B. Lumsden, M.D who, along with the executive committee, will guide the center's development, approve new research initiatives and initiate collaborative ventures that will transform cardiovascular nanomedicine. The center's program and working group leaders include some of Houston Methodist's best nanotechnology researchers and cardiovascular physicians and surgeons, such as Guillermo Torre-Amione, M.D., Ph.D., Elvin Blanco, Ph.D., Miguel Valderrábano, M.D., John Cooke, M.D., Ph.D., Ennio Tasciotti, Ph.D., William Zoghbi, M.D., and Paolo Decuzzi, Ph.D. The groups are designed to work in sequence, a bit like runners in a relay race, to translate discoveries quickly into technologies for human clinical trials.
One possible area of investigation is the use of non-toxic, silicon-based nanoparticles to dismantle and disperse the fatty plaques that often form along the inner sides of blood vessels. These plaques contribute to hypertension. When larger plaques are dislodged, they can cause blockages downstream, leading to heart attacks and strokes.