Accelerating Science-to-Solution Through a New Model of Collaboration
The Longfellow Project bridges the divide between academic research and industry-based R&D, bringing together leading biomedical researchers and physician-scientists at Mass General to work with one another and with their peers in industry.
Launched in 2015 by the Mass General Research Institute Office of the Scientific Director, The Longfellow Project includes the Bridging Academia and Industry educational program, a year-long course on the multifaceted practice of translational science, and the Challenge-Driven Research Programs focused on specific health issues and disease areas.
The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines is an example of what can be accomplished through focused collaboration between academic science and the biopharma industry. The Longfellow Project has established these same types of collaborations across the major health challenges that threaten humanity today.
The Bridging Academia and Industry Educational Program:
Teaching a new collaboration model
In order to achieve our mission of continuing to find new treatments and cures for major diseases, our top biomedical investigators need to understand the process by which discoveries become new, effective therapies. To this end, in 2019 we launched the Bridging Academia and Industry educational program to teach Mass General Research Institute faculty the “art” of translating science to patient care while catalyzing the development of new diagnostics and treatments.
This year-long program is taught by more than 40 expert faculty from academia and industry. It begins with a course on the strategies and tactics of translation and culminates in a solution-driven project competition with a $150,000 award for the winning team. Experienced leaders from academia and industry work together using case studies to illustrate: Fundamentals of Translation, Research and Development (Therapeutics, Diagnostics, Intellectual Property), Business Development and Commercialization (Go-to-Market Planning, Exit Strategies) and Translation Stories (Therapeutics, Diagnostics).
For the project competition, each trainee identifies and presents a novel research question to be addressed in order to develop new cures and diagnostics. They are then grouped into teams that are designed to bring together people whose skills and expertise are relevant to one another’s work.
Together, the teams further refine the challenge they hope to address and work with faculty members from industry and academia to outline clear research and development plans. Each team makes a final presentation to a panel of industry and academic experts, and the winning project team receives a one-year, $150,000 award to perform relevant research experiments and develop a sound go-to-market plan.
Our goal for the next five years is to train more than 100 promising biomedical and physician-scientists through Bridging Academia and Industry, helping these Mass General Research Institute trainees understand the path to translating their science to new diagnostics and therapeutics through impactful collaborations.
The Longfellow Project Challenge-Driven Research Programs:
Tackling pressing medical issues with the most promising new approaches
The Longfellow Project Challenge-Driven Research Programs take a comprehensive approach to identifying and designing solutions to important health care problems. They have instituted a new model of collaboration that leverages fundamental and translational research, clinical care and access to high-quality patient samples, enabling bench-to-bedside-to-bench translation, while taking into consideration market drivers.
To establish these Challenge-Driven Research Programs, the Strategic Alliances team in the Office of the Scientific Director worked closely with investigators and leadership across Mass General and with external advisors from the pharma, biotech and venture communities, including members of the Research Institute Advisory Council.
To date, eight Challenge-Driven Research Programs comprised of 261 investigators from 21 Mass General departments and centers have come together with key industry partners to focus on new diagnostics and treatments for health issues that affect vast numbers of patients: Antimicrobial Resistance; Cancer Immunotherapy; Cardiometabolics; Epigenetics (treating diseases by changing what genes do without altering DNA); Microbiome; Neuroinflammation in Neurodegeneration; Rare Diseases and Sleep.
They have already had a dramatic impact on moving science forward. As new discoveries are made, scientists are able to seek feedback from industry collaborators on factors that could advance or inhibit the ability to develop novel approaches and deliver them to market to help patients. These efforts have resulted in extensive meetings with 14 pharmaceutical and biotech companies, with one collaboration agreement executed and launched and other discussions in progress. Our goal is to provide funding for each program to support early stage, proof-of-concept research that will leverage further funding and industry agreements.
Bacterial-resistant infections | All bacterial infections
73 Lead Scientists
Collaborating Departments and Centers: Center for Computational and Integrative Biology • Department of Dermatology • Department of Medicine • Department of Molecular Biology • Department of Pediatrics & Pediatric Surgery • Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology • Department of Surgery • Emergency Medicine • Wellman Center for Photomedicine
Key Challenge: How can antibiotics be used effectively and responsibly to treat bacterial infections without increasing antibiotic resistance?
Relevant Issues: By 2050, it is estimated that the number of deaths due to antibiotic resistant bacterial infections will be ten times higher than deaths due to cancer. We are working to develop new diagnostic tools to analyze the genome of the infectious bacteria, new drugs to treat specific infections, and new models of stewardship to ensure safe and directed antibiotic use.
Multiple cancers | Malignant and benign tumors
33 Lead Scientists
Collaborating Departments and Centers: Center for Systems Biology • Mass General Cancer Center • Department of Dermatology • Department of Medicine • Department of Otolaryngology • Department of Pathology • Department of Radiation Oncology • Department of Surgery
Key Challenges: Why do some people respond to immunotherapies while others do not?
How can we prevent toxic responses to immunotherapy treatments that often develop over time?
Relevant Issues: Tumors are complex masses of cancerous and non-cancerous cells, including cells of the immune system. Immunotherapy boosts the immune cells’ ability to kill cancerous cells and has shown great potential in treating a range of tumor types. But response to treatment varies widely between patients and over time. Understanding the immune biology of tumors will help realize the promise of immunotherapy to turn cancer into a manageable chronic disease.
Heart failure | Arrhythmia | Vascular disease | Metabolic disorders
23 Lead Scientists
Collaborating departments and centers: Center for Systems Biology • Department of Medicine • Department of Pathology • Department of Radiology • Department of Surgery • Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging • Wellman Center for Photomedicine
Key challenge: How do we advance from treatment to cure?
- The epidemic of cardiovascular diseases is related to multiple factors, including higher survival rates for heart disease and stroke; increasing our understanding of why certain people survive cardiac events or heart conditions will play a pivotal role in addressing and eradicating cardiometabolic diseases.
- Revealing the biologic mechanisms of cardiometabolic disease will result in a clearer understanding of the biologic underpinnings of patients’ conditions and guide the application of new, effective treatments.
- Identifying the relationship between cardiovascular diseases and other mechanisms like inflammation will guide biomarkers and target discovery.
Cardiometabolic diseases affect millions of people and are a leading cause of death worldwide. Mass General treats tens of thousands of patients across cardiology, the Mass General Corrigan Minehan Heart Center and many other departments and centers, giving us a critical advantage in tackling these diseases.
Nearly all forms of cancer and tumors | Dementia and multiple neurological diseases
13 lead scientists
Collaborating Departments and Centers: Department of Dermatology • Department of Medicine • Department of Molecular Biology • Department of Neurology • Department of Pathology • Mass General Cancer Center
Key Challenge: How do changes in when, whether and how often the information stored in a gene is used alter the activity of a cell and lead to disease?
Relevant Issues: Epigenetics involves the properties of gene regulation (whether and when a gene’s instructions are used) and gene activity (the frequency that a gene’s instructions are used). Epigenetics add a dynamic layer of control to cell activity and changes in these properties can lead to disease. We are working to develop a comprehensive understanding of gene regulation and activity which will provide a more complete picture of the root causes of disease and inform the development of new therapeutics to maintain healthy cell activity.
Obesity | Reproductive Health | Multiple Other Diseases and Disorders
19 Lead Scientists
Collaborating Departments and Centers: Department of Medicine • Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology • Department of Pediatrics & Pediatric Surgery • Department of Surgery • Wellman Center for Photomedicine • Center for Systems Biology
Key Challenge: What role does the human microbiome play in promoting healthy development, maintaining healthy physiology and driving disease?
Relevant Issues: The human body contains at least as many microbial cells as its own cells. These microbial cells form a second genome in each individual. Studying this second genome has advanced our understanding of how the microbiome promotes human health or disease. For example, changes to the composition of microbes in the gut have been linked to chronic inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. Our focus is on preventative and therapeutic treatment options that support healthy microbiome development and function.
Neuroinflammation in Neurodegeneration
Alzheimer’s disease | Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) | Multiple sclerosis | Other neurogenerative diseases
25 Lead Scientists
Collaborating Departments and Centers: Department of Medicine • Department of Dermatology • Department of Neurology • Department of Radiology • Department of Surgery • Wellman Center for Photomedicine • Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Key Challenges: Is neuroinflammation a therapeutic target across neurodegenerative diseases? Would targeting neuroinflammation enable early detection and treatment before symptom onset?
Relevant Issues: In recent years, clinical observations and lab-based research have linked neuroinflammation to neurodegeneration and to clinical symptoms. These findings suggest that the genes regulating innate immunity could serve as targets for preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and potentially help patients before symptoms develop.
Over 30 rare disease being treated and studied at Mass General
52 Lead Scientists
Collaborating Departments and Centers: Center for Genomic Medicine • Center for Systems Biology • Department of Medicine • Department of Molecular Biology • Department of Neurology • Department of Pathology • Department of Pediatrics & Pediatric Surgery • Department of Radiation Oncology • Department of Radiology • Department of Surgery • Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation • Wellman Center for Photomedicine • Mass Eye and Ear: Departments of Otolaryngology; Department of Ophthalmology; Schepens Eye Research Institute
Key Challenges: Is it possible to create a systematic, patient-centered approach to understand the biology underlying each rare disease? Can we develop mechanism-based treatments that benefit patients and family members at-risk for the same rare disease?
Relevant Issues: This program will speed diagnosis and development of patient genotype-based treatments for 30 rare diseases being treated and studied at Mass General. It leverages the advanced technology tools available at Mass General, such as the therapeutic delivery of DNA sequences into patients’ cells (gene therapy); genetic engineering in which DNA can be deleted, modified or replaced to prevent or cure diseases (gene editing); and other gene-related approaches to disease treatment, prevention and screening.
Autism spectrum disorder | Cardiovascular and metabolic disorders | Schizophrenia | Neurodegenerative diseases | Multiple other health issues
23 Lead Scientists
Collaborating Departments and Centers: Center for Systems Biology • Center for Genomic Medicine • Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care & Pain Medicine • Department of Dermatology • Department of Medicine • Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology • Department of Pediatrics & Pediatric Surgery • Department of Surgery • Wellman Center for Photomedicine
Key Challenge: How do sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions or disorders drive disease, and vice versa?
Relevant Issues: Sleep is controlled by circadian rhythms and is essential for human health — during sleep our bodies clear toxins from the brain, undergo physical restoration, process information and consolidate memories, regulate mood and strengthen the immune system. Sleep and circadian rhythms disruptions (e.g., shift work, newborn care) and disorders (e.g. insomnia, sleep apnea) impact overall health by decreasing wakefulness, performance and productivity; increasing stress and anxiety and driving a wide range of diseases. Understanding how sleep impacts disease, and vice versa, will allow us to develop new diagnostics and treatments to address a vast array of diseases and improve overall health.
The Translational Sciences Fellowship Program: Training and inspiring young researchers to pursue careers in translational science
As a companion to the Bridging Academia and Industry educational program, we seek to launch this fellowship program to provide promising scientists, PhDs or MDs, with support and mentorship to perform original research in a leading academic medical center while gaining hands-on experience on how to translate new discoveries to clinical practice.
Establishing the Translational Sciences Fellowship Program has the capacity to change the career trajectory of recipients who demonstrate capacity and high interest in applying science to address medical and biological questions. This fellowship would support early career researchers who have excelled in the Bridging Academia and Industry educational program in taking the next steps in their research and in pursuing careers in translational science. This fellowship program will help build a community of collaborative researchers skilled at communicating with physicians, defining the problem to be solved, selecting relevant solutions that take into consideration the basics of the market ecosystem, and engaging in collaborations with industry partners.
Fellows will benefit from our unique cross-disciplinary model with mentors from research and translational science. They will spend 75% of their time performing hands-on research on a specific project
Strategic Alliances Initiative
The Strategic Alliances initiative is a cornerstone of the Mass General Research Institute’s mission to help scientists engage in more productive and long-lasting collaborations with industry at all stages of their work: from fundamental research to proof of concept, development, and transfer to market and patient care.