Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

New Approach to Global Health Challenges

Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013
Bookmark and Share
MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science brings many tools to the quest for new disease treatments and diagnostic devices.

MIT’s new Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) is tackling some of the world’s biggest health challenges through an interdisciplinary approach that will seek new ways to diagnose and treat infectious, neurological and cardiovascular diseases.

Solving those challenges will require bringing together many types of expertise, said MIT President L. Rafael Reif, who urged researchers to “be bold, think big, and save the world” at an inaugural symposium, held Sept. 25, to celebrate IMES’s launch.

The new institute aims to become a hub for medical research, IMES director Arup Chakraborty said, allowing MIT scientists and engineers to work more closely with hospitals, medical-device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies in the Boston and Cambridge area.

“We aim to serve as a strong integrative force across the MIT campus and bring together our work in discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship and partner with hospitals, Harvard Medical School and industry to create the future of medicine and health care. There is no better location in the world than here to try and do this,” said Chakraborty, the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and Biological Engineering at MIT.

IMES, which is now home to the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), will also train the next generation of innovators at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. IMES will add a new program with the MIT Sloan School of Management and a new curriculum in health-care informatics, said Emery Brown, associate director of IMES. “We’re going to expand on what is already a 40-year success with the HST program with Harvard Medical School,” said Brown, the Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering at MIT.

IMES also includes MIT’s Medical Electronic Device Realization Center, which is devoted to developing new medical devices for diagnosis and disease monitoring, in collaboration with industrial partners.

Grand challenges

Speakers at the symposium outlined some of the health challenges now facing the world and offered thoughts on how to tackle them.

Gregory Petsko, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, said that as life spans continue to increase around the world, more and more people will suffer from neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. “The older you get, the greater your risk for one of the major neurodegenerative diseases,” he said.

There are now 5 million people with Alzheimer’s in the United States, a figure that is expected to grow to nearly 14 million by 2050. At the same time, the worldwide total is projected to reach 100 million.

Petsko, who described potential drugs he is developing to interfere with the formation of Alzheimer’s plaques, said he and other scientists need help from engineers to find optimal ways to deliver their drugs to the brain. Engineers can also lend their expertise in designing devices that can test for disease biomarkers that scientists may discover in the future, he said.

“This is a problem that largely is going to have to have engineering solutions. We have to find biomarkers, but there have to be ways to identify those markers in living people inexpensively and, in some cases, rapidly,” Petsko said.

Trevor Mundel, president of the global health program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said he hopes the foundation and IMES will have opportunities to work together.

“I see a lot of synergies and intersections between IMES and the Gates Foundation,” Mundel said. “At the high level, we both want to have real impact and do things in the real world, not just be theoretical and have some abstract discussions.”

Mundel said that when creating new technology for developing countries, it is critical to be aware of the local environment and the needs of the people living there. For example, a recently deployed diagnostic device for tuberculosis turned out to be ill-suited to remote clinics because it took too long to produce a result.

“We had in mind a profile of what was really needed, and what we got out was not quite there. What I have found out is that ‘not quite there,’ in these infrastructure-poor areas, is not there at all,” Mundel said. “The global-health community all too often produces products which were almost there, but they’re not good enough for the countries and the infrastructure where they actually need to be deployed.”

Building bridges across disciplines

While IMES is breaking new ground, it is also building on a long history of medical research at MIT. In 2011, Reif, then MIT’s provost, asked a faculty committee to examine the future of HST, established in 1969 to train physician-scientists.

The committee found that while many scientists and engineers at MIT were working on projects together, these efforts were not centrally organized. Furthermore, MIT was not taking full advantage of its close proximity to nearby world-class hospitals. IMES was established in July 2012 to formalize and strengthen those connections.

“We needed a structure that would allow MIT and its clinical colleagues to make the most of each other’s strengths, working together on the most important problems and seizing opportunities to drive systemic change,” Reif said at yesterday’s symposium.

In establishing IMES, Chakraborty and others drew inspiration from the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and the Ragon Institute of Harvard, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Bruce Walker, director of the Ragon Institute, said he launched that institute, whose mission is to develop HIV vaccines, because he had become frustrated with the isolated nature of most HIV research. It was difficult to bring in scientists or engineers from outside the field and even harder to obtain funding for innovative interdisciplinary projects, he told symposium attendees.

“Our feeling was the full toolbox had never really been applied to the HIV problem, and my sense from interactions with the Broad Institute and others that I had begun to get engaged with here was that we could really accelerate progress if we could get more engineers and physicists and computational biologists to come to the table,” Walker said.

Likewise, Koch Institute director Tyler Jacks wanted to bring new perspectives and expertise to MIT’s research on cancer. In 2010, cancer biologists and engineers moved into a new Koch Institute building, which is designed to foster chance interactions and new collaborations, Jacks said.

Making sure that scientists and engineers have ample opportunities to talk about their research and learn the language of other fields is key to successful collaborations, Jacks said.

“I sometimes describe this place like Ellis Island,” he said. “You’ve got people bumping into each other who don’t speak the same language. Chemical engineers have to talk to molecular biologists. Mechanical engineers have to talk to cell biologists. This takes some effort, and we’ve worked quite hard to try to enable better communication and education among the people who are experiencing the Koch Institute.”


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,400+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Controlling RNA in Living Cells
Modular, programmable proteins can be used to track or manipulate gene expression.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Long-Term Drug Release
New tablet attaches to the lining of the GI tract, resists being pulled away.
Thursday, April 07, 2016
Pharmacy on Demand
New, portable system can be configured to produce different drugs.
Monday, April 04, 2016
A Programming Language for Living Cells
New language lets researchers design novel biological circuits.
Monday, April 04, 2016
Why Some Tumors Withstand Treatment
Mechanism uncovered that allows cancer cells to evade targeted therapies.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Cancer Cells Remodel Environments Before Spreading
Researchers at MIT have found that the cancer cells remodel their environment to make it easier to reach nearby blood vessels.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Paving the Way for Metastasis
Cancer cells remodel their environment to make it easier to reach nearby blood vessels.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
A New Way to Discover DNA Modifications
Researchers systematically find molecules that help regulate and protect DNA.
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
MIT Study: Carbon Tax Needed to Cut Fossil Fuel Consumption
Researchers at MIT have suggested that the technology-driven cost reductions in fossil fuels will lead the world to continue using all the oil, gas, and coal, unless governments pass new taxes on carbon emissions.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Mapping Regulatory Elements
Systematically searching DNA for regulatory elements indicates limits of previous thinking
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Curing Disease by Repairing Faulty Genes
New delivery method boosts efficiency of CRISPR genome-editing system.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Living a “Mixotrophic” Lifestyle
Some tiny plankton may have big effect on ocean’s carbon storage.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Faster Drug Discovery?
Startup develops more cost-effective test for assessing how cells respond to chemicals.
Friday, January 29, 2016
No More Insulin Injections?
Encapsulated pancreatic cells offer possible new diabetes treatment.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Engineering Foe into Friend
Bose Grant awardee Jacquin Niles aims to repurpose the malaria parasite for drug delivery.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Scientific News
Releasing Cancer Cells for Better Analysis
A new device developed at the University of Michigan could provide a non-invasive way to monitor the progress of an advanced cancer treatment.
Releasing Cancer Cells for Better Analysis
A new device developed at the University of Michigan could provide a non-invasive way to monitor the progress of an advanced cancer treatment.
Apricot Kernels Pose Risk of Cyanide Poisoning
Eating more than three small raw apricot kernels, or less than half of one large kernel, in a serving can exceed safe levels. Toddlers consuming even one small apricot kernel risk being over the safe level.
Cell Transplant Treats Parkinson’s in Mice
A University of Wisconsin—Madison neuroscientist has inserted a genetic switch into nerve cells so a patient can alter their activity by taking designer drugs that would not affect any other cell.
Understanding Female HIV Transmission
Glowing virus maps points of entry through entire female reproductive tract for first time.
Genetic Markers Influence Addiction
Differences in vulnerability to cocaine addiction and relapse linked to both inherited traits and epigenetics, U-M researchers find.
Lab-on-a-Chip for Detecting Glucose
By integrating microfluidic chips with fiber optic biosensors, researchers in China are creating ultrasensitive lab-on-a-chip devices to detect glucose levels.
A lncRNA Regulates Repair of DNA Breaks in Breast Cancer Cells
Findings give "new insight" into biology of tough-to-treat breast cancer.
COPD Linked to Increased Bacterial Invasion
Persistent inflammation in COPD may result from a defect in the immune system that allows airway bacteria to invade deeper into the lung.
Detection of HPV in First-Void Urine
Similar sensitivity of HPV test on first void urine sample compared to cervical smear.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,400+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!