Sperlings Spark Unique Collaboration in Precision Medicine

Scott and Laurene Sperling, longtime benefactors of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, believe in the power of collaboration to make groundbreaking changes. In 2015, they made a transformative gift to bring BWH and Harvard Business School together to build an executive leadership program. Now, they have given $1 million to spark a one-of-a-kind partnership between the hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to establish the Sperling Family Fellowship in Precision Healthcare.

Through the fellowship, young physician-scientists will work with mentors from BWH and the Broad Institute on research that uses the tools of precision medicine to develop new approaches to treating disease. Precision medicine involves collecting and assessing patient data—lab test results, imaging data, genomic data, and more—to predict what will happen with the health of groups of patients and to tailor care accordingly.

“This collaborative fellowship taps into the individual strengths of each of these institutions,” says Scott, chair of the BWH Board of Trustees. “It’s a great example of tackling health challenges in new ways.”

After a rigorous selection process, Andrew J. Aguirre, MD, PhD, an instructor in medical oncology at BWH and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, was named the first fellow. His research, which began in July, focuses on identifying cell biomarkers that may lead to a new, personalized approach to treating colorectal cancer.

“This is exactly the type of research the fellowship aims to support,” says Jeffrey A. Golden, MD, chair of the BWH Department of Pathology, who is overseeing the fellowship program with Eric Lander, PhD, president and director of the Broad Institute.

“Dr. Aguirre’s work addresses an urgent clinical question, leverages the Broad Institute’s scientific expertise and BWH’s clinical and data resources, and has a potentially significant impact on patients.”

Supporting such a promising endeavor is gratifying, notes Laurene, who has seen BWH through the lens of a patient, benefactor, and volunteer leader during the past three decades. “We’re eager to see how Dr. Aguirre’s research unfolds,” she says. “Efforts like these are what we need to solve complex medical problems like cancer and heart disease.”