Despite the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 surge this spring, research activity at Massachusetts General Hospital is on the rebound.

That was a key take-home message from the 2020 Celebration of Science, which was held virtually on Sept. 21st. The annual event is presented by the Executive Committee on Research (ECOR) of the Mass General Research Institute.

The day kicked off with Mass General president Peter L. Slavin, MD, who recognized the members of the research community who redeployed at the start of the COVID-19 surge this spring to provide crucial support services at the hospital. This included producing hand sanitizer for hospital-wide use, listening for ventilator alarms, delivering lunches and developing and testing new prototypes for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mass General investigators have also leapt into action to address key scientific challenges posed by the pandemic. As of August 31st, the institution has received $55.1M in COVID-19 related awards from the Department of Health and Human Services, federal subcontracts and other funding sources, said David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, the chair of ECOR.

In a year filled with unprecedented challenges, there was still a lot to celebrate, including the introduction of the latest recipients of MGH Research Scholar Awards, three new Endowed MGH Research Institute Chairs, the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Awards, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s Physician Scientist Development Awards, and the new Anne Klibanski Visiting Scholar and Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar Awards.

The Klibanski Visiting Scholar Awards were presented to women faculty clinicians, educators, researchers and postdocs at Mass General who have shown exceptional promise as leaders and whose careers would benefit from speaking, mentoring and network opportunities nationally and internationally.

With the support of the Center for Faculty Development, recipients will be able to serve as “virtual” visiting professors and lecture at national or international institutions. They will also receive professional coaching and leadership training.

The focus of the event then shifted to science, with presentations from this year’s winners of the Howard M. Goodman Fellowship, and the Joseph B. Martin Research Prizes for the best fundamental and clinical research articles published in 2019.

Goodman Fellowship recipient Shawn Demehri, MD, PhD, presented his findings that T cell immunity to human papillomaviruses (HPVs) plays a role in suppressing the development of skin cancer in individuals with intact immune systems, and the loss of this immunity in immunosuppressed patients significantly increases their risk of skin cancer.

Matthais Nahrendorf, MD, PhD, recipient of the Martin Prize for Clinical Research, shared his findings identifying a mechanistic link between exercise and the reduction of cardiovascular inflammation.

The celebration concluded with Thorsten Mempel, MD, PhD, recipient of the Martin Prize for Fundamental Research, who presented his research identifying a mechanism for priming tumors for immune checkpoint therapy.

The annual Celebration of Science book highlighting the research achievements from 2019 can be downloaded here as a PDF file.