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ABC’s Kevin O’Leary brings a little Hollywood to Academic Innovation

ABC’s Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank

The waters will be swirling as scientists compete for $200,000 at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Shark Tank on Wednesday, June 4, 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The event will be co-hosted by Boston’s Kevin O’Leary, venture capitalist and star of ABC’s Shark Tank.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital loves these live pitch-off competitions, which only began last fall with their first hackathon that featured Cyrus Massoumi, Founder and CEO of ZocDoc. Because of the excitement and energy these events generate, the Brigham Research Institute has taken it to the next level by inviting in ABC’s Kevin O’Leary as the Master of Ceremonies. This will officially be the first time mainstream celebrity status has been used to energize academic medicine. This will also be the first time venture capitalists will openly be invited to judge and critique traditional science research. Honestly, I love Benjamin Humphreys, MD, PhD, and my super knowledgable and approachable attending when I was a renal fellow, but really, how exciting is “Targeting Fibrosis for New Therapies in Heart Failure and Chronic Kidney Disease” to the average person? Is Kevin O’Leary just a party trick to make the public excited about esoteric research? Or will O’Leary’s keen eye for capitalistic innovation and short temper for novices push and refine academic medicine to true success, and will this be what keeps Brigham ahead of the game? But if we’re requesting party tricks, my next vote for celebrity appearance in NIH science would be for Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen. Perhaps Chris Coburn, vice president of all of Partners innovation, can arrange that.

The Humphreys Lab, Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Eight finalists—scientists at BWH—will each have five minutes to pitch their novel research ideas that cover topics ranging from high-tech poop to Alzheimer’s-resistant brains.

A panel of judges comprised of O’Leary; co-host Christine Seidman, MD, director, Brigham Research Institute; other members of BWH research leadership; business leaders; venture capitalists; and investors will select up to four winners who will each receive $50,000 to advance their innovative research projects. The event is open to the BWH community as well as the public, and the audience will also have a chance to vote to see how their selections compare to those of the judges. BWH Nephrology fellow, David Leaf, MD, says, “This should be a terrific competition among a bunch of very talented and innovative investigators.”


BWH Shark Tank event Agenda

11:30 a.m.       Welcome; Christine Seidman, MD

11:35 a.m.       Opening Remarks; Kevin O’Leary

11:50 a.m.       Investigator Presentations; BWH researchers, moderated by Kevin O’Leary

Eight finalists will be presenting for five minutes each. Finalists were selected from a large pool of applicants after two rounds of rigorous scientific review by BWH faculty. Each presentation will be followed by a five minute Q & A slot. Finalists’ collaborators may be with them to answer any questions. Only sharks can ask questions during this time; the audience will not be allowed to do so.

1:15 p.m.         Sharks huddle and vote

1:45 p.m.         Winners announced; Kevin O’Leary


Chris Coburn, VP of Partners Innovation, Judge of the MedTech Boston Google Glass Challenge on April 23

The judges are:

Richard Anders, founder and executive director of Mass Medical Angels, a seed stage investor group exclusively focused on life science and healthcare investments.

Chris Coburn, vice president of Innovation, Partners HealthCare, leads a team of 70 professionals whose mission is to translate the tremendous innovation potential at BWH and other Partners hospitals into drugs, devices, software, diagnostics and other patient solutions.

Todd Dagres, founder of Spark Capital, a venture capital firm that partners with exceptional entrepreneurs seeking to build disruptive, world-changing companies.

Alex Golby, MD, a neurosurgeon whose research involves the application of brain mapping techniques to patients with neurosurgical diseases.

Laurie Keating, former senior vice president of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a leading biopharmaceutical company focused on oncology that combines the agility, ideals and camaraderie of a start-up with the resources of Japan’s largest pharmaceutical company, Takeda.

Bruce Kristal, PhD, an investigator in the BWH Department of Neurosurgery whose research focuses on neurological injury, identifying biomarkers of personalized risk of future breast cancer and diabetes, and the analysis of very large data sets to solve biological problems.

Maria Marmarinos, president of Catalyst Group, a consulting company aimed at providing quality management consulting.

Jon McNeil, chief executive officer of Enservio, a company that offers software and services across the entire value chain of contents claim processing for property insurance.

Gerald Pier, PhD, a microbiology and molecular genetics investigator whose research focuses on understanding how harmful bacteria interact with humans and animals.

Christine Seidman, MD, Thomas W. Smith Professor of Medicine, is the current director of the Brigham Research Institute (BRI). Her laboratory uses genetic techniques to study the molecular basis of cardiovascular diseases and other disorders such as skeletal abnormalities and vascular disorders.

Emily Stern, MD, director, BWH Functional & Molecular Neuroimaging, focuses on using advanced imaging techniques to study abnormal patterns of neural activity in schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and other neuropsychiatric diseases with greater sensitivity, specificity and resolution.

Duane Wesemann, MD, PhD, an investigator whose research focuses on how environmental factors like our diet and commensal (‘friendly’) microbes in our bodies help shape our immune system especially early on in life.


From the April 28 BWH Innovation Hub Pilot Shark Tank

The finalists are:

  • Krisztina Fischer, MD 
    Instructor, Dept of Medicine, Renal Division and Dept. of Radiology
    “Novel method to detect kidney microvascular perfusion deficits in the ICU to guide therapy”


  • Chris French, MD
    Associate Professor, Dept of Pathology
    “Oncogenic Target Discovery Through Chromatin Interaction Protein Mass Spec”


  • Georg Gerber, MD, PhD
    Instructor, Dept of Pathology
    “High-tech poop: engineering helpful communities of bacteria in your gut to protect against serious infections”


  • Aditi Hazra, PhD
    Assistant Professor, Dept of Medicine, Channing Division of Network Medicine
    “IN SItu Genomics, Healthcare, and Treatment (INSIGHT) Consortia for Prevention of DCIS Overtreatment”


  • Kevin Hodgetts, PhD
    Instructor, Dept of Neurology
    “Towards a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy”


  • Benjamin Humphreys, MD, PhD
    Assistant Professor, Dept of Medicine, Renal Division
    “Targeting Fibrosis: New Therapies for Heart Failure and Chronic Kidney Disease”


  • Jeff Karp, PhD
    Associate Professor, Dept of Medicine, Biomedical Engineering Division
    “Changing the landscape of inflammatory bowel disease through controlling gut bacteria”


  • Tracy Young-Pearse, PhD
    Assistant Professor, Dept of Neurology
    “Why are some brain regions resistant to Alzheimer’s Disease?”


The event is co-sponsored by the Brigham Research Institute and Brigham Innovation Hub of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Click here to learn more and to register for the event.

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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