BWH chemist Nathalie Agar shares her research on the blood-brain barrier.

To kick off Women in Medicine and Science Month last month, BWH’s Biomedical Research Institute (BRI) invited some of the hospital’s many accomplished female physicians and scientists to share a glimpse of their work at a special Sept. 10 Innovation Grand Rounds, a BluePrint-themed event.

Catherine Racowsky, PhD, of BWH’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Lynn Bry, MD, PhD, of Pathology; and Neurosurgery and Radiology’s Alexandra Golby, MD, and Nathalie Agar, PhD, presented their diverse, innovative research, along with a keynote address by Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD, president & CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The center is a “life sciences hub” that funds creative, innovation-driven initiatives related to biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and bioinformatics, said Windham-Bannister.

Racowsky’s research seeks to reduce the multiple pregnancy rate associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.

“The goal of IVF is not twins or triplets,” she said. “We know that twins are born earlier and have lower birth weights than singletons and increase the mother’s risk of several disorders, including gestational diabetes.” Racowsky says the goal is determining the single best embryo to implant in IVF patients, a very challenging task.

From left: Keynote speaker Susan Windham-Bannister and Innovation Grand Rounds hosts Frederick Schoen and Kirby Vosburgh gather after the event.

Bry discussed the fast, scalable system she and her colleagues in Pathology developed to make gathering and retrieving patient samples more efficient and affordable. The system, called Crimson, taps into the more than 10,000 samples that pass through Partners’ clinical laboratories, making it “a biorepository for medical discovery,” she said.

Neurosurgeon Golby spoke about the translation of research to clinical care in her brain mapping work, as well as the nuances of distinguishing the edges of tumors from healthy tissue in brain cancer patients. Her colleague Agar, a chemist, shed light on the blood-brain barrier, hidden in the brain’s blood vessels, and how drugs can’t reach and treat brain tumors if they can’t cross these vessels.

During the keynote, Windham-Bannister spoke to the urgency and importance of getting girls interested in science at a young age and supporting them to stay interested, despite existing environments and biases that may discourage them.

“We start to lose girls in science beginning in fourth grade,” she said. “As women, we get fewer tenure opportunities, less NIH funding and hold fewer top positions in the life sciences. We have to support each other and the next generation.” A quarter of the early-stage companies the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has supported through its Accelerator Loan Program were started by women.

The Innovation Grand Round series is part of BWH’s Office for Research Careers (ORC) and the BRI’s Technology Innovation Program, and is designed to be an interactive and educational forum. Directed and hosted by Frederick Schoen, MD, PhD, executive vice-chairman of Pathology, and also hosted by Kirby Vosburgh, PhD, associate director of BWH’s Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) suite, the sessions promote questions and dialogue about the practical nuts and bolts aspects of successful collaborations.

Innovation Grand Rounds are held on the second Tuesday of the month, 46 p.m., in the Shapiro Breakout Room. Learn more.