The Man with Midas Touch

By Matthew Henshaw

Mar 22, 2022 · 6 min read

Alex Lukianov has certainly put his mark on how companies can grow and create value. If you want to dive into Alex's personal and family background as well as his way of thinking when it comes to commercialising Spine products, this article is for you.

In September 2021, before NASS, I wrote my review of exciting, up and coming players. As I finished my list, I noticed that three out of those seven companies are associated with Alex Lukianov and Dr Kevin Foley. I have always advocated that great technology won’t achieve great results without the right people on board, and this felt like the perfect example to prove that theory. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only one to point this out, as one of the first comments was from Ted Bird, who said:

‘A common theme for your list this year is Alex Lukianov and Kevin Foley, M.D. founded/affiliated companies, (Accelus, DuraStat and Tissue Differentiation intelligence, LLC). These guys have the Midas touch in spine.’

My immediate thought was to reach out to Alex and to understand how he chooses his projects and to try and learn if there is a “secret sauce” to his success. I am very grateful that Alex was kind enough to grant me an interview, and over three articles you will find his hard work and enthusiasm for success have paid dividends, not just in business, but in his personal life as well. Hopefully, this series of articles with Alex will help to inspire the next generation of MedTech leaders and to continue pushing innovation forward.

In today’s article, I would like to share more about Alex, his career, and his attitude toward bringing brilliant ideas to life. 


Inventing the unknown, imagining the impossible


For the few of you that may not have heard of Alex Lukianov, here is a short synopsis of his career progression. To summarise, in Alex’s own words:

“I have had the good fortune to be a part of a lot of good technology.”

Alex’s journey in orthopaedics began with a Joint Venture between Stryker and Meadox Medical by bringing an artificial ACL to the sports medicine market. This was followed by Smith & Nephew, where he formed and led the Ilizarov Business Unit to manufacture and commercialise innovative limb-lengthening technology (distraction histogenesis) from Russia throughout the world. He then went on to spearhead Sofamor Danek, (now Medtronic), where he set the industry domination vision for the company. He introduced a customer-oriented culture and product innovation, leading them from #4 to #1 in the spine industry. He then took on a project that everyone said would be impossible, building another company specialising in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery, NuVasive – the billion-dollar start-up. And as the Founder and CEO of NuVasive, he proved everyone wrong. He built it from the ground up all the way to public offering and to the number #3 global spine company position with a $2.5 billion market cap (NUVA: NASDAQ). He achieved this through product innovation and Absolute Responsiveness with an emphasis on industry-leading service.

He hasn’t stopped there, in the Spine industry alone, he currently acts as chairman of the board in three companies—DuraStat, Tissue Differentiation Intelligence (TDi) and Accelus—which we will discuss in the next article in more detail.


Success Story Takeaways 


When we follow Alex’s journey, we wonder what makes him so successful. How does he operate to repeatedly deliver unprecedented results? Throughout his career, he has succeeded, no matter the technology. It almost feels like he was the hidden formula for success. Just to further verify this, I spoke to Keith Valentine and Pat Miles to get their perspective on the matter. Here are the two key takeaways: 


1) Alex is committed to the customer experience

According to Keith Valentine, “Alex thought about every detail to make sure it was the best experience for the surgeon.” It’s this surgeon-driven culture that has allowed Alex to retain their loyalty over the years. 

Alex has always made sure that everything is planned thoroughly, from his guests’ travel arrangements to landing at the airport and arriving at the hotel to a personal welcome. As Keith puts it, Alex felt that “the surgeon is giving us their time, so we have to make the experience perfect”. He even hired a concierge from one of the local hotels—someone who truly understood the customer experience—to ensure that the experience was seamless. He wanted the surgeon to leave and say, “Wow! I’m actually happy I took a day out of my practice, that was super informative. “

In fact, the more Alex thought about it, the more it made sense to have a cadaver lab on site too, specifically designed for ortho/neuro surgeons and their needs. So he did exactly that. He set up a cadaver lab at the office to ensure the very best spinal surgery training, and a product area where visitors could ask questions and debrief on the experience… perhaps over wine and cheese. This surgeon-driven initiative proved to be such a huge innovation that the industry would go onto follow in his footsteps. 


2) Alex’s passion is contagious

Keith Valentine and Pat Miles both agreed that Alex is a very charismatic and passionate guy. Pat recalls Alex creating a “performance culture” -that’s to say creating a passionate message, communicating it with a great sense of urgency and garnering a very personal buy-in across the entire company.  

Keith echoed this statement by commenting,

“Alex, and his passion was contagious. With his contagious passion, I got passionate, Pat got passionate, Jason Hannon got passionate, and we all drove it!”  

Pat recalls the time Alex got a NuVasive XLIF surgery and teased that he wasn’t just the CEO, but the ‘hair club for men guy’! He was in surgery with Alex during this procedure and remembers how excited Alex was to experience the procedure firsthand rather than relying on scientific data and others’ experiences. This drove him to sell the technology even harder, since he believed it was better than they had even been describing! 

About ten years ago, I, myself, had the pleasure of meeting NuVasive’s Jon Arcos in London and remember his pride in presenting me with his NuVasive business card with Alex’s x-ray on it. What better way to sell your product than have your CEO’s post op XLIF x-ray on your business cards? After all, very few CEO’s have the possibility to utilise their own products. 

So what does Alex have to say about his own passion? He points out that:

“I really enjoy building things and injecting culture into the process. It’s more the way you build the company, versus just the product. That’s the way I look at it.”


3) Alex has a family-focused philosophy  

There is great fluidity between Alex’s work and his private life. As Pat recalls, Alex would host Christmas parties at his house and would always say, “it’s not business, it’s personal” – quite the opposite of what many other businesses say. Let’s look at Alex’s background and personal life to gain a sense of what guides his ethics and decision-making. 

Alex was born in New York as a first-generation American. His Grandparents fled the Russian revolution. Both his parents were born outside Russia and they ended up meeting in New York City at the end of World War 2, having fled their homes through respective refugee efforts in their countries. As a result, Alex speaks Russian and was raised with Russian faith and culture. Alex’s Father was a civil engineer who became the highest ranking priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. Father Valery authored many books, was a gifted orator, and built one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in North America in Southern New Jersey.

Family is certainly one of the things he feels very strongly about. His wife Katya, shares his passion for Russian Orthodox Chant music and they’re both involved in philanthropy, helping to build new churches and seminaries. They have four children and recently, Alex enjoyed partaking in physical labour to help remodel his son’s house. The Lukianov Family resides mostly in Florida on the east coast, while Alex’s oldest daughter is a marketing director at ATEC. The Family often enjoys their condo in Manhattan and seeing Broadway shows.

Producer, performer, racer 

As it turns out, Alex has the Midas touch not only in Spine. His career most certainly has not overshadowed other facets of his life. Think big – as in Tony Awards and Grammy Nominations

Yes, he produces and performs music. He is a Tony Award winning producer for the stage show MEMPHIS. He has received multiple Grammy Nominations for his work producing, recording and singing Russian Orthodox Chant at the highest professional level. At the time of our conversation, he was waiting to find out if they will receive another Grammy nomination for their most recent CD, which came out on a London based label called Chandos, one of the bigger labels for Classical music. He is also planning to perform and record his 5th album later this year in Jerusalem. 

On top of this, he loves racing cars and building churches! He’s on the track once a week -mostly at the Concours Club in Miami where he is a Founding member, racing cars like BMW M2 CSR racer, or Porsche GT 3RS and Ferrari Challenge. He has re-modelled or built four churches over 25 years and is presently undertaking a massive project in Miami to build a Cathedral and Orthodox Spiritual music center.  



So, this is Alex Lukianov. Successful businessman, family man, award-winning producer & musician and philanthropist. I hope that Alex’s journey, hard work and passion can help to inspire the next generation of leadership and innovation in the MedTech industries. Next month I will discuss Alex’s current projects and what he looks for when committing to a project.


#PeopleInSpine series from talanoa aims to introduce you to influential Spine professionals, investors and founders, sharing their success stories and overview of the market.


Matthew Henshaw is the Founder and CEO of Talanoa, he acts as a recruitment strategist and startup mentor in the medical device industry.

Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn and feel free to talk about your business and talent plans. Let’s see if I can help with my expertise or my own network.


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