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The 70th meeting of the MGH Scientific Advisory Committee focused on the MGH Research Institute, which was founded in 2015 as an organizational home for the more than 8,500 MGHers in 30 departments, centers and institutes who make up the largest hospital-based research program in the U.S. The March 29 meeting, following the preceding day’s Celebration of Science (see sidebar), began with a keynote talk by Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, founding director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, who described the Wyss as a model for academic-industrial collaboration.
Presentations by award-winning researchers highlight Celebration of Science
This year’s Celebration of Science featured 224 research posters, 12 of which were chosen as posters of distinction after oral presentations from 24 finalists. A highlight of the day was presentations by the winners of the MGH’s top research awards.
Mo Motamedi, PhD, of the Department of Medicine and the MGH Cancer Center, pictured above, received the Goodman Fellowship for his investigation of a population of tumor cells that remain in a dormant, treatment-resistant state. In a yeast model, his team has identified proteins that act as a switch, enabling cells to enter this protective state, that may present a new target for cancer treatment.
Florian Eichler, MD, of the Department of Neurology and the Center for Genomic Medicine, received the Martin Prize for Clinical Research for his New England Journal of Medicine paper describing a gene therapy treatment that has halted symptom progression in boys with cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, the first successful gene therapy for an otherwise-fatal brain disease.
Miguel Rivera, MD, of the Department of Pathology and the MGH Cancer Center, received the Martin Prize for Fundamental Research for his Cell paper describing a newly discovered mechanism by which a genetic abnormality leads to development of the pediatric bone cancer Ewing sarcoma, findings that may be relevant to other cancers and lead to new treatment strategies.
The evening reception featured announcement of the 2018 MGH Research Scholars:
Ingrid Bassett, MD, MPH, Department of Medicine, Medical Practice Evaluation Center
Daphne Holt, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Eric Liao, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, Center for Regenerative Medicine;
Karen Klahr Miller, MD, Department of Medicine, Neuroendocrine Division
Alexander Soukas, MD, PhD, Department of Medicine, Center for Genomic Medicine
In the overview of the Research Institute’s first three years, Harry Orf, PhD, MGH senior vice president for Research, described how the institute was developed out of the research strategic planning process to address challenges including the shrinking and shifting of federal support for biomedical research and the difficulties bringing research findings into clinical practice. Along with working to increase unrestricted support for research, the local and national visibility of MGH research, and engagement with industry, the Research Institute has recently added programs to improve communications with MGH researchers – including face-to-face meetings and presentations and a new iSuggest system.
Research Institute scientific director Sue Slaugenhaupt, PhD, described communications vehicles such as the “Snapshot of Science,” and “From the Lab Bench” email newsletters and programs designed to help investigators present their work to nonscientific audiences. Development efforts stressing the importance of “the science behind the cures” have helped establish the endowed Research Institute chairs, which along with the MGH Research Scholars Program provide philanthropic support to investigators pursuing leading-edge studies.
Efforts to improve awareness of the impact of MGH research were discussed by Misty Hathaway, MGH chief marketing officer, and Peggy Slasman, senior vice president for Public Affairs. Robert Kingston, PhD, chief of Molecular Biology, moderated the panel on fundraising for the Research Institute, which described how telling the story of MGH research could inspire support from potential donors whose original contact with the hospital may have been through patient care.
A panel including Gabriela Apiou, PhD, director of translational research training and development at the Research Institute, and Patrick Fortune, PhD, vice president for market sectors at Partners, reviewed the value of strategic alliances with industry partners. Maurizio Fava, MD, director of the Division of Clinical Research; Mason Freeman, MD, founder and director of the translational research center; and David M. Nathan, MD, program director of the Clinical Research Center, discussed the continued expansion of efforts to promote the hospital’s clinical research mission.
“We thought that – with three years under our belts – this would be a good time to make the Research Institute the focus of SAC,” says David Louis, MD, chief of Pathology and outgoing chair of the Executive Committee on Research. “We have made progress in a number of areas, all of which were subjects of discussion at the meeting, and it was heartening that SAC felt we were doing things right. Their suggestions were primarily about continuing to improve communicating the value of the Research Institute to our investigators.”
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