How Does Your Role at the Brigham Help Accelerate Translational Research?
As part of our institutional strategy, BWHC has set seven objectives to achieve our mission and vision. In an ongoing series, BWH Clinical & Research News will be asking members of the community about how they help make the Brigham’s strategy happen and support these strategic priorities. This month, we focus on Scalable Innovation and several strategies to accelerate translational research and innovate in way that can impact many lives.
“As director of the Brigham Research Institute, I have worked closely with research administration in the conception and implementation of the Translational Accelerator, which will guide future translational investigations. To further enable this, the BRI has established a scientific advisory board that includes a number of luminaries from the pharmaceutical and venture capital fields.”
-Richard Blumberg, MD, Director, Brigham Research Institute; BWH Gastroenterology Chief
“As a thoracic surgeon-scientist with a background in biomedical engineering, my focus is on leveraging new technologies to improve future treatment options for patients with lung cancer, mesothelioma and sarcomas. The success of my research efforts in near-infrared imaging, lymph node targeting, nanoparticle drug-delivery and real-time mapping of lymphatics in lung cancer is the direct result of innovation through collaboration among a team of clinicians, engineers and chemists. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Thus, there is an urgent need to bring novel treatment options, which minimize the risk of chemotherapy and prevent recurrence after surgery, to lung cancer patients in the clinic. My team’s work harnesses the latest advances in technology to solve clinical problems, such as by employing nanoparticles as drug-delivery vehicles to travel the lymphatic system seeking hidden tumor cells or by using copolymer films loaded with extended-release chemotherapy and placed in the margin surrounding a patient’s tumor resection to reduce recurrence. In my role as a collaborator and innovator, I am accelerating translational research at BWH to transform the future treatment and care for cancer patients.”
-Yolonda Colson, MD, PhD, Associate Administrative Chief, Division of Thoracic Surgery; Vice Chair, Surgical Innovation; Executive Director, Center for Surgical Innovation; and Director, Women’s Lung Cancer Program
“As chair of the Department of Pathology, I’ve seen firsthand the foundational role our department plays in accelerating translational research. Virtually every study, at some time, will require the collection of patients’ biospecimens: blood, tissue or other fluids. Many times the assays performed on the specimens are conducted in our department. Thus, Pathology is an essential cog in the translational research engine. In addition, I have recently focused much of my time on precision medicine. I believe translational research can be accelerated, in part, by using the vast amount of data we already collect on our patients and populations of patients. By integrating these data and applying computational methods, we believe we will more effectively use the data we have to care for patients, maintain health and better predict and prevent disease.”
-Jeff Golden, MD, Chair, BWH Department of Pathology
“As the recipient of the first Boston Biomedical Innovation Center DRIVE Grant, I have helped accelerate translational research by spinning out my academic work into a successful biotech startup company. Platelet BioGenesis is a pre-clinical stage biotech company that was spun out of Harvard in 2014 to produce donor-independent human platelets from pluripotent stem cells. Platelet BioGenesis has shown that functional platelets can be generated from human stem cell cultures and is currently scaling platelet production for first-in-human clinical trials. The company was selected to participate in MassCONNECT (run by MassBio), and was a 2014 MassChallenge Finalist, a 2016 BioSciKin business competition winner and has received support from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and the NIH.”
-Jonathan Thon, PhD, BWH Department of Medicine
“I am currently involved in the design and implementation of clinical trials for sentinel node biopsy in lung cancer surgery as part of Yolonda Colson’s lab. In addition, I am investigating novel nanoparticle and drug-eluting polymer constructs that drastically enhance the way we deliver chemotherapy to tumors, allowing greater than 1,000 times the amount delivered by traditional chemotherapy to tumors while avoiding systemic toxicity. I hope that through completion of my current two-year clinical research fellowship I am able to help make these polymer constructs a clinical reality.”
-Christopher Digesu, MD, clinical research fellow, Department of Thoracic Surgery
“As a surgical oncologist specializing in the care of patients with soft tissue sarcomas, I have the honor of caring for a high volume of patients with this rare family of diseases. This has allowed our team at the Center for Sarcoma and Bone Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center to develop a clinical perspective from experience only a few other centers worldwide share. We have established an annotated sarcoma tumor bank, which allows us to study individual histologic subtypes of sarcoma in incredible depth. By working with terrific clinicians and scientists at BWH as well as at DFCI, we can introduce novel treatments to reduce sarcoma recurrence rates and improve patient survival. The Brigham environment brings together experts from a variety of different disciplines and fosters the sort of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that brings unique solutions from one field to the clinical dilemmas in another.”
-Chandrajit Premanand Raut, MD, MSc, Associate Surgeon, BWH Division of Surgical Oncology, Director of Surgical Oncology, Center for Sarcoma Bone Oncology, DFCI
“I lead the Heart Valve Translational Research Program (HVTRP) in collaboration with cardiologist Patrick T. O’Gara, MD, director of Clinical Cardiology and executive medical director for the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center. The first initiative of its kind, the program seeks to better understand calcific aortic valve disease by studying its molecular underpinnings. Our aim is to develop a discovery pipeline: a comprehensive research strategy that will link clinical and imaging assessments of CAVD and pathology at various stages of disease to underlying cellular, molecular and protein changes, and the interactions responsible for tissue calcification using omics and network analysis approaches. Through this strategy, clinicians and researchers remain closely linked to accelerate the translation of basic findings into clinical practice. HVTRP will use these new insights to develop methods for the early detection of CAVD and potentially tailor treatments according to each patient’s disease stage.”
-Elena Aikawa, MD, PhD, Director, BWH Heart Valve Translational Research Program