About Dennis A. Ausiello, MD

Dennis A. Ausiello, MD is the Director of the Center for Assessment Technology and Continuous Health (CATCH), a program he founded as a joint effort between Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) physicians, scientists and engineers to discover earlier markers of disease, real-time measurements in daily life, and analysis of the human phenotype in wellness and disease, for better patient control. He is also a Jackson Distinguished Professor of Clinical Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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Researcher Profile
He is a nationally recognized leader in academic medicine, having been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science (1999) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2003). He has written for many publications, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal, on various health subjects including human genetics, clinical trials, and the relationship between the academy and industry.

Ausiello is particularly interested in the training of inquisitive physicians and translational investigators and is the architect and director of the recently implemented Harvard initiative in Patient-Associated Science: Training, Education, Understanding, and Research (PASTEUR), a program designed to introduce Harvard medical students and select Harvard undergraduates and graduate students to the excitement, challenges and opportunities of patient-oriented research and to cultivate the development of the next generation of reflective physician-scientists.

As an internationally recognized scientist, with specific expertise in epithelial and membrane biology, ion and water channel regulation and signal transduction, Dr. Ausiello has served as a council member of the National Institute of Diabetes, the Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council and the National Advisory Council on Aging. He has been the recipient of two MERIT awards from the National Institutes of Health

He served on the Board of Directors of the Broad Institute, an independent partnership of Harvard and MIT faculty working in human genetics, as well as the board of directors of the nonprofit organization, Research!America, the leading advocate group for investment in biomedical research in the United States.

Understanding the need for partnerships between the academy and industry, Dr. Ausiello currently serves on the Board of Directors of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, TARIS, a drug-delivery company, and Alnylam, an iRNA company. He also serves as an advisor to various biotech companies and venture capital companies working in the biotech and device area.

He previously served as Chief of Medicine at Mass General from 1996 until his retirement in 2013. In this role, he led one of the strongest departments of medicine in the country and the largest department at Mass General, home to all internal medicine and primary care practices, 11 clinical subspecialty services, residency and fellowship education and a thriving research enterprise. Ausiello also served as chief of the Mass General Renal Unit and oversaw its development into one of the most sought-after research and training programs in the world. He has been closely involved with the Partners HealthCare System, linking the resources of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to provide comprehensive health care. Ausiello was also director of the MD/PhD Program at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until 1999. He served as chair of the Executive Committee on Research of the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he oversaw a research budget of $350 million annually.

Dr. Ausiello holds a BA from Harvard College and an MD from the University of Pennsylvania.

Research at CATCH

The Center for Assessment Technology & Continuous Health (CATCH) in the Department of Medicine is focusing on new approaches to medical research. CATCH is combining all sources of information on patient health – both traditional (e.g. medical records) and non-traditional (e.g. smartphone applications) sources to better define wellness and disease. 
  • Glucosuccess ResearchKit!: This platform is allowing thousands of patients to enroll in a clinical trial via an app, and provide data for both individual and research use. Data collected on this scale is providing insights into diabetes progression and management never before achievable. We are currently obtaining new insights into the impact of exercise on patients, and also regarding regulation of glucose around meals. Data analysis is underway with unexpected findings of disease progression.
  • Predictive models for Patients at Risk for Medication Non-Adherence: Combining large data set including the Partners electronic medical record (EMR) and publicly available data we are learning how patient behaviors, co-morbidities, and socio-geographic factors relate to the likelihood of medication adherence and build models predicting which patients are at risk.
  • Predictive models for Patients at Risk for Hypoglycemia: We are combining our large EMR dataset with publicly available data to develop models predicting patient subsets at risk for hypoglycemia given behaviors, co-morbidities and environmental factors.
  • Olfactory (smell) Measurements of Disease: Individual differences in smell perception may associate with the presence of disease, such as with inflammatory and metabolic disease. One mechanism may be the function of microbes in the nose and/or gut, especially the microbial production of signaling molecules such as short chain fatty acids (SCFA). We will perform a first-in-man pilot using a new platform to analyze precise olfactory phenotypes in the context of the human microbiome and disease traits. If successful this platform will be a first in kind testing device.
  • Early detection of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF): In this pilot study we are determining if small changes in vocal patterns can provide early signals of fluid retention. The larynx is covered in a single layer of endothelial cells, and we hypothesize that small changes in fluid retention in these cells might cause detectable vocal changes, providing an early, simple and sensitive marker for CHF that can be measured with a home based device.
  • Hydration Sensor: No single measurement currently available determines hydration status. Currently an in-patient stay is required for evaluation. Our partners at MIT have developed a miniature NMR device and we are testing it to see if we can measure hydration status in minutes non-invasively. If successful this will lead to early, more accurate and less costly evaluation for patients with renal, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Gut Microbiome role in disease: Microbes found all over our bodies, especially in the gut (the microbiome), are recently recognized to modulate inflammation, immune function and metabolism in cancer, diabetes and auto-immune diseases. CATCH is characterizing the microbiome in the 3,800 participants of the Framingham Heart Study (Framingham, MA) along with data on diet, genetics, and medications
  • Behavior Assessment and Modification in Type 2 Diabetes: CATCH is studying if a smartphone app can help patients improve symptoms and outcomes by reflecting accurate measures of tracked behavior. The app, designed at the MIT Media Lab, should be more effective than any other as it measures significant behavioral data points (i.e. sleep, exercise and social contact) through the phone sensors and not relying solely on biased patient reporting. These data, paired with patient reported metrics like diet and mood provide user friendly reports to support health behavior improvement.

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