Since the Brigham’s founding, its clinical and research communities have worked in close collaboration to make discoveries that improve the health of patients at the Brigham and people around the world. This long legacy of driving clinical advancements continues today across its campus, with almost 800,000 square feet of dedicated research space. (That’s equivalent to about 18 acres or 13 football fields.) But its investment — and return on investment — cannot simply be measured in footage.

“The Brigham is a research powerhouse,” said Paul Anderson, MD, PhD, senior vice president and chief academic officer. “Research revenue accounts for a major part of the hospital’s operations. And creating research breakthroughs is a critical part of who we are. We like to say, it’s in our DNA.”

For the past 25 years, Brigham and Women’s Hospital has been the second-ranked U.S. free-standing hospital for federal research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2019, its total research revenue was $698 million, almost one-quarter of the Brigham’s entire revenue.

In late 2019, Anderson offered his insights about the state of research at the Brigham during a year-in-review presentation to various audiences, including those in attendance at the November Research Connection Live Luncheon. During his talk, he highlighted Brigham projects and researchers who received the largest research awards of the year, ranging from $10 million to more than $130 million each. These awards reflect both the span and dedication of the Brigham’s commitment to creating a healthier world. Projects include:

Advancing Clinical Trials in Oncology

Monica Bertagnolli, MD, of the Division of Surgical Oncology, is the Group Chair of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, an international consortium that develops and conducts clinical trials for patients with breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, respiratory, central nervous system and hematological malignancies and selected rare tumors.  The Alliance is funded through the NIH’s U.S. National Cancer Institute, and conducts investigator-initiated research funded by industry and private foundations.  A total of 123 major health care organizations and more than 3,000 researchers contribute to Alliance research.

Extending the First-of-Its-Kind Prevention Study in Alzheimer’s Disease

Led by principal investigator Reisa Sperling, MD, director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment, the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4) study is a landmark international clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of anti-amyloid treatment in preventing memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) among healthy older adults. NIH support will enable an open label extension of the study in over 1000 participants at 67 sites.

“The additional longitudinal data from the extended A4 study, in combination with similar data acquired from other studies, has the potential to fundamentally alter the detection, treatment and prevention of AD and move us closer to the goal of finding a successful therapy by 2025,” said Sperling.

Cyanide Countermeasures

Cyanide remains one of the most important chemical threats to humanity due to terrorism and industrial or other accidents. Current countermeasures, the majority of which are over 90 years old, are inadequate for the most likely threat scenarios. Calum MacRae, MD, PhD, vice chair for Scientific Innovation in the Department of Medicine, and colleagues have received federal grant support to define the mechanisms of action for three new classes of cyanide countermeasures, moving the most promising class members to preclinical testing.

Advancing Cardiovascular Health

The Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) Study Group, led by Marc S. Sabatine, MD, MPH, has previously shown that robust lowering of LDL cholesterol with the PCSK9 inhibitor evolocumab reduced the risk of recurrent myocardial infarction (MI) or stroke in patients with a history of MI or stroke. Now, in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinial trial known as VESALIUS-CV, the TIMI Study Group looks to extend this paradigm and will study the clinical efficacy of evolocumab to prevent a first MI or stroke in approximately 13,000 patients at high risk of experiencing such an event.

Developing Targeted Therapies for Children and Adults with Brain Tumors

In 2019, Tracy Batchelor, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology, and colleagues received a grant renewal for their Brain Cancer Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE), “Targeted Therapies for Gliomas,” to improve the treatment for adults and children with brain tumors. Batchelor, the principal investigator, is joined by scientists from the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) neuro-oncology program, which brings together cancer research efforts from across five academic medical centers, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T. H. Chan School for Public Health.

“Renewal of our SPORE grant was critical for the DF/HCC neuro-oncology program,” said Batchelor. “Moreover, we are one of a small group of neuro-oncology SPORE programs in the United States. The grant allows us to maintain close collaborations with our peers in these other institutions.”

Anderson congratulated all investigators in the research community who have garnered new funding in the last year.

“Our research enterprise is critically important to making discoveries and translating those discoveries into therapies for patients. We’ll continue to innovate on the best model for research support now and in the future,” said Anderson. “I want to thank you all for your work, your efforts and your commitment to research at the Brigham.”


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