From the category archives:

Innovators’ stories

Part of a continuing series of videotaped sessions at Boston Children’s Hospital’s recent Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014.

It was an ABC “Shark Tank” lover’s dream: At this pediatric Innovation Tank moderated by Daymond John, venture capitalists and clinicians fielded pitches from innovators looking to advance their care solution before a packed audience. The contenders:

  • A soft sleeve and wrap to keep catheter central lines in place, created by a parent
  • A handheld device that cleanses central line hubs, freeing up clinicians’ time
  • A mobile weight-loss program for kids and teenagers, designed to teach healthy habits

We won’t disclose the results–you’ll just have to watch the proceedings–but as emcee Bruce Zetter, PhD, of Boston Children’s put it, “The children win.”

Stay tuned as we post more sessions from the Pediatric Innovation Summit (also available on YouTube) and read our blog coverage.

Leave a comment

Chromosome breaks translocations gene editing CRISPR TALENs ZFNs zinc fingers Frederick Alt

When chromosomes break, the ends can join together in a number of ways, some of which can cause trouble. A new QA method could help researchers avoid making problematic breaks when using gene editing technologies like CRISPR.

Labs the world over are jumping onto the gene editing bandwagon (and into the inevitable patent arguments). And it’s hard to blame them. As these technologies have evolved over the last two decades starting with the zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), followed by transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) and CRISPR—they’ve become ever more powerful and easier to use.

But one question keeps coming up: How precise are these systems? After all, a method that selectively mutates, deletes or swaps specific gene sequences (and now can even turn genes on) is only as good as its accuracy.

Algorithms can predict the likely “off-target” edits based on the target’s DNA sequence, but they’re based on limited data. “The algorithms are getting better,” says Richard Frock, PhD, a fellow in the laboratory of Frederick Alt, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital. “But you still worry about the one rare off-target effect that’s not predicted but falls in a coding region and totally debilitates a gene.”

Frock, Alt (who leads Boston Children’s Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, or PCMM), fellow Jiazhi Hu, PhD, and their collaborators recently turned a method first developed in Alt’s lab for studying broken chromosomes into a quality assurance tool for genome editing. As a bonus, the method—called high-throughput genome translocation sequencing (HTGTS)—also reveals the “collateral damage” gene editing methods might create in a cell’s genome, information that could help researchers make better choices when designing gene editing experiments. Full story »

Leave a comment

Second in a series of videotaped sessions at Boston Children’s Hospital’s recent Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014.

Your first job as an innovator is to persuade your colleagues that playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all, says Bill Taylor, Fast Company’s cofounder and founding editor. During his keynote address, “A Practically Radical Prescription for Health Care,” Taylor urged health care innovators to embrace change and look broadly to other fields–even the circus–for lessons.

He invoked what George Carlin called “vuja de”: The opposite of deja vu, it’s seeing a familiar thing in new way. “We learn and grow the most when we meet with people unlike us,” Taylor said.

Ask yourself, “What are we offering that is hard to come by?” Fill a need before other organizations even see it. It may be hidden in plain sight. Here’s Taylor’s talk in full:

Stay tuned as we post more sessions from the Pediatric Innovation Summit (also available on YouTube) and read our blog coverage.

Leave a comment

First in a series of videotaped sessions at Boston Children’s Hospital’s recent Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014.

Inspiration for pediatric innovation is everywhere—from hackathons to waiting rooms to research labs—but getting from concept to clinic is a challenge. This panel discussion offers observations, insights and strategies for success in pediatric health, from drug development to caregiver support:

Panelists:

Stay tuned as we post more sessions from the Pediatric Innovation Summit (also available on YouTube) and read our blog coverage.

Leave a comment

catheter hub cleaning

Sarah Goldberg and Ali Ataollahi pitching their device, which cleans central-line hubs with the push of a button, at Boston Children's Hospital's Innovation Tank.

Thousands of hospital patients die every year from infections that start in a central line, a catheter used to inject life-saving medications directly into the bloodstream. One infection can add two to three weeks and a whopping $55,000 to a patient’s hospital stay. Even worse, up to 25 percent of patients who come down with a central line infection die from it—a staggering number considering that 41,000 such infections are recorded in the U.S. each year.

“Central line infections are life-threatening, costly and completely preventable,” says Sarah Goldberg, MD, a fellow in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).

The problem is that the catheter’s hub—the port where it enters the body—is exposed to bacteria in the world around it. If clinicians don’t thoroughly clean the hub before each use, they risk pushing bacteria straight into a patient’s blood. But that brings up a second problem.

Full story »

Leave a comment

From a series on researchers and innovators at Boston Children’s Hospital.

David Hunter, MD, PhD

Happy to fix things, Hunter realigns a strike plate on a balcony door. (Photo: Constance West, MD)

David G. Hunter, MD, PhD, dreamed of a career as a rock star. Instead, he became Boston Children’s Hospital’s ophthalmologist-in-chief and invented the Pediatric Vision Scanner. The device, designed for use by pediatricians, detects amblyopia or “lazy eye,” the leading cause of vision loss in children, as early as preschool age when the condition is highly correctable. Full story »

Leave a comment

Naomi Fried, PhD, is Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Return on innovation ROI

When people hear about ROI, they often think of financial returns and “return on investment.” But, in my world, ROI is actually “return on innovation.” While the return on innovation can be financial, it can also take many other forms. Here are my top five. Full story »

Leave a comment

Judy Wang, MS, is a program manager in the Telehealth Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

hackathons

Hackathons create ideas and excitement, but then reality sets in.

Much has been written about the successes that result from medical hackathons, in which people from across the health care ecosystem converge to solve challenges. For example, PillPack, which formed out of MIT Hacking Medicine, recently closed an $8.75 million funding round. But is this a realistic snapshot of what happens after a hackathon? We took a look at two of the 16 teams that competed at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Hacking Pediatrics last year. Full story »

Leave a comment

Boston Globe CRISPR gene editing research

You have an immune system. Your cat has an immune system. And bacteria have an immune system, too—one that we’ve tapped to make one of the most powerful tools ever for editing genes.

The tool is called CRISPR (for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”), and it makes use of enzymes that “remember” viral genes and cut them out of bacterial genomes. Applied to bioengineering, CRISPR is launching a revolution. And the Boston Globe reported over the weekend that while researchers at the University of California at Berkeley first developed CRISPR, the technique is booming in labs around Boston. Full story »

Leave a comment

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 »

Leave a comment