Each month, we ask people from across the Brigham to answer a question for our “Look Who’s Talking” feature. This issue, we are asking past winners of the Brigham Research Institute’s Health & Technology Innovation Awards (informally known as the “Shark Tank”) about the impact that the award has had on their work and careers. Since 2012, more than $1 million has been distributed to Brigham investigators through these awards. Learn more here.

“Winning the award helped our lab explore mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis using a new approach. We had been studying stem cells derived from both familial and sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. This award let us explore stem cell-derived brain cells from patients with Down syndrome, who almost always develop Alzheimer’s disease when they reach older ages. Data from these studies helped us acquire several multi-year grants from the National Institutes of Health to push these studies forward to uncover molecular mechanisms underlying the development of dementia in these patients.”

— Tracy Young-Pearse, PhD, Associate Chair of Neuroscience Research, Department of Neurology

“Through the opportunity provided by the Brigham Research Institute’s Health & Technology Innovation Award, my lab has made enormous strides in our quest to harness CRISPR-Cas9 to understand and treat genetic disease. Our lab has found that the mutational outcomes of CRISPR-Cas9 are predictable and can be precise, leading to unappreciated opportunities to fix genetic disease mutations. We have also developed new approaches that have elucidated the genetic risk factors governing cholesterol levels. I am grateful for the support to build my lab at the Brigham.”

— Richard Sherwood, PhD, Principal Investigator, Division of Genetics

“My project is focused on developing a personalized, automated anesthesia system, which will be used for the care of pregnant patients undergoing cesarean delivery. This award allowed us to create a model using real-time blood pressure and heart rate input from the patient monitors and predict vasopressor (phenylephrine) needs using an artificial intelligence algorithm.  We are exploring the utility of using this model as a decision-support system and integrating it into the physician’s workflow. We have expanded into investigating additional factors affecting blood pressure regulation in pregnancy and determining the most optimal clinical approach. Our overall goal is to develop highly accurate models to predict and prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

— Vesela Kovacheva, MD, PhD, Physician-Scientist and Attending Anesthesiologist, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine


“This award allowed my laboratory to collect essential pilot data that led directly to multiple other grants and awards, including a semifinalist award in the National Institutes of Health/Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge and an R01 examining breath volatile metabolites in murine models of ventilator-associated pneumonia and in patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia to determine the underlying microbial etiology and examine metabolic changes in these microbes suggestive of antimicrobial resistance.”

— Sophia Koo, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist, Division of Infectious Diseases


“We obtained the BRI Health & Technology Innovation Award to conduct a pilot study on the impact of cannabidiol (CBD) in patients with opioid use disorder (OUD). CBD is a non-addictive and non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis, and a small number of previous trials have shown CBD might be useful for patients with OUD by reducing the cravings these patients experience in response to being triggered by reminders. This means CBD might be useful in preventing relapse. We therefore proposed to test this compound in a pilot trial with a small number of patients with OUD. The COVID-19 pandemic obviously interfered with our study in a major way, but we have had several participants complete all study procedures, and the results so far do indicate that CBD does reduce the individuals’ cravings. This study lays the groundwork for obtaining funding for a more rigorous trial using a double-blind, placebo-controlled design, which we are just about to launch. The funding through this award made this whole endeavor possible, and we remain very grateful for the support.”

— Joji Suzuki, MD, Associate Psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry


“My colleagues and I are grateful for our Schlager Family Innovation Fund award, which provided strong support for our project. We have developed a workhorse system which accurately documents key symptoms in advance of an in-person or virtual visit. The system benefits patients and clinicians alike, providing a means to maximize face-to-face time together, along with important data for tracking patient outcomes. Our clinicians who study their data have won near-annual best-in-show awards at national or international conferences. In addition, our platforms have spread to span three Mass General Brigham sites. Our goal is to help clinicians who are struggling with documentation needs, seek to optimize their patient care, and hope to advance their academic dossier.”

— Jennifer Shin, MD, Vice Chair for Faculty Development, Department of Surgery


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