From the category archives:

Innovators’ stories

Gomez's team at work on a platform for vaccine tracking and ordering

Gómez's team at work on an app for vaccine tracking and ordering

Eva Gómez, RN-BC, MSN, CPN, is a staff development specialist in Clinical Education and Informatics 
at Boston Children’s Hospital. She and Tami Chase, RN, nurse manager at Martha Eliot Health Center, received the Springboard Prize from Boston Children’s Innovation Acceleration Program at last month’s Hacking Pediatrics.

For months, my colleague Tami Chase and I had been experiencing a big pain point in our patient-care process: the complicated and time-consuming task of ordering vaccines—a task that requires providers and nurses to memorize or figure out complex algorithms based on variables like patient age, ethnicity and medical/family history. There are many vaccines and formulations, and if vaccine supplies are used incorrectly, we are less able to order free vaccines from federal and state sources. We’re then forced to purchase vaccines privately—tapping hospital funds that could be used for many other worthy projects. Full story »

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This post is first in a series of profiles of researchers and innovators at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Martha Murray, Braden Fleming and their children in San Francisco.

Martha Murray, Braden Fleming and their children in San Francisco.

“I’d like to meet the innovator who made the tricorder that Bones used on Star Trek,” says orthopedic surgeon Martha Murray, MD. “A push of the button and things healed, no muss, no fuss. I’d like to know how he or she made that work because I could really use one.”

Murray has been on a 30-year quest to devise a better way to treat anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. She recently crossed a major milestone: The Food and Drug Administration approved a first-in-human safety trial of a bio-enhanced ACL repair that encourages the ligament to heal itself. Murray expects the first patients to enroll in the 20-patient trial by early 2015. We had a few questions for her.

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UV light-activated aptamers Dan Kohane drug delivery

Short snippets of DNA called aptamers (red) readily get into cancer cells (green and blue) on their own (left panel). They can't penetrate cells when stuck to an oligonucleotide (center), but regain the ability when the oligonucleotide's bonds are broken by UV light (right). (Images courtesy Lele Li, PhD.)

You have a drug. You know what you want it to do and where in the body you need it to go. But when you inject it into a patient, how can you make sure your drug does what you want, where you want, when you want it to?

Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD, who runs the Laboratory of Biomaterials and Drug Delivery at Boston Children’s Hospital, has one potential solution. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Kohane; postdoctoral fellows LeLe Li, PhD, and Rong Tong, PhD; and Robert Langer, PhD, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describe a drug- targeting system that’s based on a combination of ultraviolet (UV) light and short, single strands of DNA called aptamers. Full story »

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A biospleen is born

by Tom Ulrich on November 17, 2014

biospleen sepsis Wyss Institute Donald Ingber

The Wyss Institute's biospleen. (Photos courtesy of the Wyss Institute)

On a Friday morning a few years ago, a childhood friend of mine walked into his doctor’s office, saying his hip hurt. The pain was pretty severe, and had been getting worse for several days.

By Saturday morning, he was in intensive care, fighting for his life against an overwhelming case of sepsis. He survived, but at a cost: he’s now a quadruple amputee.

It’s people like him—and the other million-plus Americans who develop sepsis every year—that Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, and his team had in mind while developing the biospleen, a device that filters sepsis-causing pathogens from the blood. Announced to the world in September, the biospleen grew out of the organs-on-chips technology that Ingber’s team at the Wyss Institute for Biomedically Inspired Engineering launched commercially this past summer.

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Jack Andraka Pediatric Innovation Summit

Jack Andraka holding his pancreatic cancer detection strip

Boston Children’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards (October 30-31) drew innovators, thought leaders and researchers from around the globe.

And one guest speaker who’s still in high school.

Teen science prodigy Jack Andraka, 17, addressed more than 300 summit attendees and shared his journey from Baltimore, Maryland high school freshman to developer of an early diagnostic test for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers. And he achieved this extraordinary task before getting his driver’s license.

After the loss of a close family friend to pancreatic cancer in 2010, Andraka, then 13, sought answers. Full story »

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Patient handoff I-PASSIt’s increasingly clear that good health care is as much about communication as about using the best medical or surgical techniques. That’s especially true during the “handoff”—the transfer of a patient’s care from provider to provider during hospital shift changes. It’s a time when information is more likely to fall through the cracks or get distorted.

Now there’s solid proof that focusing on communications counts. Last week, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a paper showing that implementing a set of handoff procedures and training tools led to a 30 percent drop in injuries from medical errors across the nine participating sites. Full story »

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gene editing CRISPR T-cells stem cells HIV

The CRISPR system (red) at work.

CRISPR—a gene editing technology that lets researchers make precise mutations, deletions and even replacements in genomic DNA—is all the rage among genomic researchers right now. First discovered as a kind of genomic immune memory in bacteria, labs around the world are trying to leverage the technology for diseases ranging from malaria to sickle cell disease to Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

In a paper published yesterday in Cell Stem Cell, a team led by Derrick Rossi, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and Chad Cowan, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, report a first for CRISPR: efficiently and precisely editing clinically relevant genes out of cells collected directly from people. Specifically, they applied CRISPR to human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) and T-cells.

“CRISPR has been used a lot for almost two years, and report after report note high efficacy in various cell lines. Nobody had yet reported on the efficacy or utility of CRISPR in primary blood stem cells,” says Rossi, whose lab is in the hospital’s Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine. “But most researchers would agree that blood will be the first tissue targeted for gene editing-based therapies. You can take blood or stem cells out of a patient, edit them and transplant them back.”

The study also gave the team an opportunity to see just how accurate CRISPR’s cuts are. Their conclusion: It may be closer to being clinic-ready than we thought. Full story »

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Catherine Rose Rising Star Boston Children's Hospital

Catherine Rose with daughter Alexis (Catherine Lacey Photography)

What spurs innovation? Catherine Rose, PhD, MBA, senior product manager for Philips Healthcare Applications, says it was her daughter, Alexis.

In 2010, Alexis, who is visually impaired and profoundly deaf, visited a Philips showroom and was captivated by the interactive displays of colored LED lighting. Intrigued by her daughter’s response to light, Rose called upon her mechanical engineering background and conceptualized and launched LightAide, a teaching tool for children with low vision and cognitive disabilities that uses interactive displays of color to introduce literacy and mathematical concepts. Full story »

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David Nathan Hematology Oncology Lifetime ImpactPeers describe David G. Nathan, MD, president emeritus of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and physician-in-chief emeritus of Boston Children’s Hospital, as a “a once-in-a-generation leader,” a “giant” and a “proverbial triple threat” combining clinical care, research and teaching leadership.

Nathan, whose commitment to pediatric medicine spans nearly six decades, received a standing ovation when presented with Boston Children’s inaugural Lifetime Impact Award Friday afternoon at the hospital’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards.

The Lifetime Impact Award recognizes a clinician and/or researcher who has devoted his or her career to accelerating innovation in pediatric medicine and who has made extraordinary and sustained leadership contributions. Full story »

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Daymond John, of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and a five-judge panel of venture capitalists and physicians selected two winners in the Innovation Tank at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards. The judges awarded the fledgling companies CareAline and HubScrub—both of which have created products to help prevent catheter-associated infections—$12,500 each. The runner-up, Kurbo, received $5,000.

“What’s amazing about the Innovation Tank is that [the winners] don’t have to give up any of their company,” John said. The number-one reason new businesses don’t succeed is overfunding. That’s because aspiring entrepreneurs often take out substantial loans to fund their innovations.

Here’s a closer look at the three innovators who participated in the tank: Full story »

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