Gillian Reny with Matthew J. Carty, MD, an inaugural winner of the Stepping Strong Innovation Award.


Matthew Carty, MD, wants to help patients interface with next-generation prostheses to restore fine movement, sensation and normal limb function. George Dyer, MD, wants to revolutionize orthopedic repairs by creating fully degradable implants. Now, thanks to the inaugural Stepping Strong Innovator Awards, both will be able to take strides toward these goals.

The first annual Stepping Strong Innovator Awards competition was inspired by Gillian Reny, a student and aspiring dancer, who nearly lost her life when she was injured by the bombings during the 2013 Boston Marathon. Forever grateful to the BWH team that saved her life and helped her recover, the Reny family launched the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund in February 2014. Now, less than a year later, the fund has already made a significant difference, raising $3.6 million and allocating more than $1.2 million to trauma research at BWH—most recently through the Stepping Strong Innovator Awards competition.

The Innovator Awards are intended to inspire and fund innovative research addressing well-defined clinical problems in regeneration, limb transplant, advanced stem cell technology, orthopedic and plastic surgery, bioengineering, rehabilitation and other areas related to trauma care at BWH.

Carty, of BWH’s Division of Plastic Surgery, was declared the winner of an international public voting competition on Nov. 20 during BWH’s third annual Research Day, receiving a $100,000 grant to fund his research. More than 4,000 people in more than 30 countries cast votes online for Carty’s project, which focuses on a novel procedure that incorporates techniques developed in complex reconstructive surgery to convert the traditional passive lower limb stump into an active appendage. This innovative approach offers amputees the promise of controlling next-generation prostheses in a way that is far more natural and dynamic.

In accepting the award Carty said, “This kind of work happens every day at the Brigham, and I feel incredibly lucky and honored to be part of this community.”

His project is a collaboration among plastic, orthopedic, and vascular surgeons from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, along with experts from MIT’s Media Lab who focus on integrating biology, mechanics, and electronics.

Dyer was selected for the second $100,000 Innovator Award grant by a judging panel following a closed-door presentation in December. Dyer, of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, plans to develop fully degradable orthopedic rods to promote healthy bone tissue healing. His work focuses on a new way to accelerate bone healing using fully degradable, silk-based surgical repair rods and bioactive molecules. The ultimate goal of this surgical approach is to replace metal alloys, the current standard for large traumatic defect repair, with degradable devices—thus minimizing the need for second surgeries and improving outcomes for trauma patients.

Dyer expressed his gratitude to panelists for choosing his project. “This has been a remarkably rewarding experience, and I want to thank the Renys for creating such a fruitful environment for collaboration,” he said.

Dyer’s collaborators include David Kaplan, PhD, and Ara Nazarian, PhD.