An Inside View of Medical Research

An Inside View of Medical Research

“Prepare to be wowed,” Betsy Nabel, MD, said as she welcomed donors to Big Bold Breakthroughs, a futuristic-themed private reception at Brigham and Women’s Hospital on November 21, 2013. “The presenters tonight are the architects of transforming the future of medicine,” said Nabel as she marveled at the investigations underway by some of the Brigham’s most innovative physician-researchers.

Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity, made a special appearance at the event, along with his colleague Peter Drobac, MD, MPH. Farmer thanked everyone in attendance for making BWH the “home base for global health equity in the U.S.” He highlighted three particular BWH accomplishments: developing a research platform for global health equity, creating more than 20 residency programs in Haiti and Rwanda, and supporting the recently-opened Mirebalais University Hospital in Haiti, which Farmer dubbed “Brigham South.”

Barbara Bierer, MD, senior vice president of research, explained the evening’s program, inviting guests to gather in groups of three to four to speak with eight teams of physician-researchers stationed around the room. “We want you to get a taste of the kinds of research we’re doing and what our faculty envision for the future,” she said. “It’s like speed-dating with medical research.”

The Brigham’s forward-thinking nature was on display all evening as guests spent five minutes at each station and learned about:

  • precision medicine—which directs the most appropriate treatments to patients based on their unique characteristics

  • new approaches to understand and treat Alzheimer’s

  • the study of limb regeneration in salamanders

  • musculoskeletal research to prevent injuries from progressing into debilitating conditions like arthritis

  • new ways to harness the immune system and more precisely attack cancer cells

  • investigations to understand and modify the microbiome to support a healthy immune system

  • building a data “library” for each patient to better identify those at risk for disease

  • a new program called iHub to connect scientists with venture capitalists and other resources

The topics sparked lively conversation, and the atmosphere was electric. Multicolored neon lights illuminated the room in a soft glow, and cuisine was cleverly presented with smoking test tubes, syringes, and lab dishes. At the end of the evening, Brigham supporters left with a taste of the breakthroughs to come thanks to ingenuity, foresight, and collaboration.

Earlier in the day, the entire Brigham community and the public had the opportunity to participate in our second annual Research Day, which shared more of the groundbreaking research being conducted. Paul Farmer delivered the keynote, and the winner of the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize was revealed. Read here for more on the day.