Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brigham’s research community remains resilient, setting a new record for revenue and reclaiming its position as #2 in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) among independent hospitals.
Paul Anderson, MD, PhD, senior vice president of research and education and chief academic officer, reflected on the research community’s collective accomplishments and highlighted several individual’s remarkable achievements in his annual “Year in Review” presentation at Research Connection Live, a monthly virtual meeting for the research community.
“We are still in the clutches of COVID-19,” said Anderson, “but the amazing thing is how the research community has shown tremendous resilience and is continuing to do their amazing work, earning grants and making discoveries, and pivoting to issues related to COVID-19 to help the local community, the country and the world deal with this pandemic.”
By the Numbers
The Brigham research community is now approaching 5,000 research employees. Research space — about 766,703 square feet — has been stable since the construction of the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine, which opened in 2016. A new research tower is under discussion for the future.
There’s been a “slow but steady” increase in research revenue over the last 10 years, Anderson explained. Patents and invention disclosures continue to grow as does opportunities for revenue from commercialization.
“We think this is an area of growth for us going forward,” said Anderson.
Responding to a Pandemic
Brigham researchers contributed to basic, clinical and translational research related to combatting the pandemic. These include vaccine clinical trials related to the Moderna vaccine, Johnson & Johnson vaccine and more, as well as testing of several antiviral therapeutics, monoclonal antibodies and anti-inflammatory agents.
“We’ve done ourselves proud in answering the call for this pandemic,” said Anderson.
The Brigham received 242 new COVID-19 related awards, for a total of $58 million in funding, with federal awards counting for more than half.
Igniting New Initiatives
Anderson also described Brigham Ignite, a new program to promote commercialization of discoveries of investigators. Anderson also highlighted the newly announced Initiative in Cell and Gene Therapy, which will officially launch in 2022 and build upon Mass General Brigham efforts in this area. Funded from the Mass General Brigham investment fund, the initiative will create a business structure, functioning like a biotechnology company with an academic medical center. A national search for a director is underway.
“We’ve very excited about this and we think this will be an opportunity to allow us to continue to work on our mission,” said Anderson.
Acknowledging Large Awards
Anderson highlighted several large awards garnered by Brigham investigators. These included a grant to Daniel Kuritzkes, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease, on behalf of the Boston/Jackson/Providence HIV Clinical Trials Unit, which will provide resources for clinical trials in HIV across the region. D. Branch Moody, MD, of the Division of Rheumatology, Inflammation and Immunity, received another large award to study the metabolic determinants of Mycobacterium tuberculosis virulence, vulnerability and variation. Michael Brenner, MD, also of the Division of Rheumatology, Inflammation and Immunity, received the third largest FY ’21 award to study the pathogenicity of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus to find new targets for drug discovery.
In 2021, the second cohort of Brigham President’s Scholar Awards were also announced. These awards are funded through the President’s Fund and donations and support the careers of assistant and associate professors who have made outstanding contributions to their chosen field. Nathalie Agar, PhD, of the Department of Neurosurgery, Victor Navarro, PhD, of the Department of Medicine, and Sandro Santagata, MD, PhD, of the Department of Pathology, were this year’s scholars.
“Congratulations to these outstanding investigators,” said Anderson.
Making Their Mark in Research History
Several programs at the Brigham celebrated major milestones this year. The Channing Division of Network Medicine marked more than 50 years of contributing to major discoveries related to defining, classifying, treating and preventing complex diseases. Anderson described the division as a “crown jewel of research.”
The TIMI Study Group has also made critical discoveries over many decades.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, their productivity remained high, and they continued to make important contributions to the field of cardiovascular medicine,” said Anderson.
Anderson also paid tribute to Lindsey Baden, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases, co-principal investigator of the study evaluating the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine developed by Moderna. Baden was lead author of the New England Journal of Medicine paper that detailed the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
“This changed the course of the pandemic — it kept people out of the hospital and saved many lives,” said Anderson. “We’re very proud of Dr. Baden, his team and all of the other members of our community who pivoted their attention to COVID-19 during this time.”