Home » Uncategorized » BU CFTCC Hacking Cancer Recap- And call for proposals for 50K of NIH funding extended to Nov 5

BU CFTCC Hacking Cancer Recap- And call for proposals for 50K of NIH funding extended to Nov 5

The Boston University College of Engineering Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care has extended their deadline for the call for proposals to November 5, 2013.

The Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care seeks proposals that focus on translational technologies that meet a need in contemporary cancer care. Proposals can focus on needs in the areas of diagnosis or treatment. Diagnosis includes screening and staging of both new and recurrent disease. Treatment can include improved treatment mechanisms (e.g. drug delivery methods), treatment monitoring methods, and/or quality of life interventions for patients in treatment. Applications in the area of mobile health (mHealth) are encouraged. Applications that address a need in low income urban or rural settings will be prioritized.

Submission is open to anyone eligible to apply for an NIH R grant. There is no requirement for applicants to be affiliated with Boston University or to collaborate with affiliates of Boston University.

The center anticipates funding approximately 4-7 grants of $50,000 direct costs each. Indirect costs will be covered at your institution’s NIH negotiated rate.

The Center launched its call for proposals on a sleepy October Saturday morning when most Boston students outside the walls of the Cambridge Innovation Center might be recovering from a night of extracurricular activities. Approximately 50 participants eagerly gathered for coffee and freshly brewed ideas to hack cancer treatment. Sponsored by the Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care (CFTCC) at Boston University, Create to Innovate for Cancer Care was the university’s first (and possibly annual) hackathon event aimed at addressing cancer treatment.



Although the term “hacking” might conjure memories of the 1980s box office hit War Games or, for the more modern reader, The Social Network, this event was not a mere playground for cyber mischiefs. Realizing the problems within cancer care require more than just the efforts of cancer specialists, Create to Innovate encouraged the creative powers of students, technologists, clinicians and even one member of a local university financial services department to bring fresh solutions to cancer treatment in a team based setting.

“A lot of people are touched by cancer” said Catherine Klapperich, Director of CFTCC, as she reflected on the diversity of participants. “It’s a common language of sickness and wellness. And, I think people from all different points of view have something really important to say about that.”



With a prize of $1000 and guarantee of one year of support from CFTCC’s Alpha Core, a lab dedicated to fostering prototypes for medical technologies, teams diligently competed for supremacy. Their goal was to develop tangible solutions aimed at addressing barriers to effective cancer treatment. And for twelve hours these groups tinkered with an arsenal of hardware, software and 3D printing tools to bring their ideas to life before a panel of judges.


Despite such a short amount of time, teams generated many innovative ideas with applications for both the United States and global markets. Projects ranged from a simple tampon based cervical screening kit to a more complex internet “Cloud” based patient care coordination device.


Yet, the team that ultimately won first place and judges highest approval was an invention called Taste Defense, which was created by Ian Butterworth, M+Vision Research Fellow at MIT, Nicholas Woolf, Boston University School of Medicine MD/PhD candidate, Andrew Brown Radiologist and MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management, and Osasere Evbuomwan, M+Vision Research Fellow at MIT.

Nicholas and Ian

On first glance Taste Defense might seem like another mundane mouthwash (and possibly a popsicle) idea. But it is a simple solution to a problem often overlooked by many clinicians with patients on chemotherapy: medicine tastes like — well, medicine. The taste of most chemotherapy drugs are not only unappealing, but the gustatory effects of the drugs often linger with patients. By causing other foods to taste like metal, chemotherapies can decreases patient appetite and consequently, contribute to rapid weight loss and malnutrition from not eating properly. To solve this problem, the winning team plans on developing a mouthwash to simply make foods taste better. They even have a catchy slogan for the product: “Don’t taste the fence, Taste Defense!”


Sometimes it takes the minds of many from different fields to distill multiple ideas into one simple solution.

After hearing that his team won, Nick Woolf said “The hackathon really exceeded my expectations. I marveled at the amount of outstanding work that can be accomplished by small groups of scientists in only 12 hours!…I think we’re capable of enhancing the delivery system for our taste bud-altering applicator, and the alpha core may have appropriate resources for our use as we explore this possibility.”

(Written by Daniel Bernard, contributing author and public health and clinical researcher at Harvard Medical School. He can be contacted at www.linkedin.com/in/danielarmandbernard or @DNLBRNRD or at daniel.armand.bernard@gmail.com.)

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

    My passion is healthcare optimization, whether that is with innovation, making scientific discoveries, or improving delivery. I love bringing people and ideas together and making projects work. With this, medicine exists to improve lives, and I will strive to always help patients and those around me.

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