Home » MedTech Features » The 2016 MedTech Boston 40 Under 40 Healthcare Innovators

The 2016 MedTech Boston 40 Under 40 Healthcare Innovators

Zain Kassam, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer at OpenBiome
Zain Kassam, MD, MPH“While folks in the building next door at MIT were teaching monkeys to control robotic arms with their minds, and they literally invented the MRI machine across the street at Harvard, I spent a good chunk of my training working out how to help physicians give patients poop in the safest possible way,” explains Zain Kassam of his career in fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). “The type of poop I’d feel comfortable giving to my grandmother.”

Kassam’s interest in the field of FMT was inspired by a patient he met during his gastroenterology fellowship at McMaster University in Canada. After failing her 6th round of antibiotics to treat her C. difficile, the patient agreed to Kassam’s suggestion that she try FMT. “Within 48 hours she was cured and back to gardening,” remembers Kassam. “It was the closest thing to a miracle I’d seen in medicine, and I wondered why not everyone was doing it.”

After a systematic review of relevant literature, Kassam realized that no one had completed the high-quality FMT trials that would be necessary to get doctors and patients using this treatment widely. So he headed south to Harvard and MIT to gain training in these trials, and ended up joining MIT spinout OpenBiome, the world’s first non-profit stool bank.

“OpenBiome is a non-profit stool bank that provides safe, ready-to-use frozen human stool for FMT,” explains Zain. “Think of it like a blood bank but for stool.”

OpenBiome has a dual mission to provide safe FMT and accelerate research. As CMO of OpenBiome, Kassam has developed the best-in-class safety protocols; only 2.8% of candidate donors pass the safety program that he developed. “Having graduated from Harvard, I can say it’s easier to get into Harvard then be an OpenBiome poop donor!”

Kassam and OpenBiome continue to research new diseases that could be treated by FMT, ranging from ulcerative colitis to obesity. “I’m helping to co-lead 13 enrolling clinical trials across a range of diseases—accounting for over 50% of all FMT studies in the US—in the hopes to harness the power of poop, and make an impact on patient lives.”

MedTech Boston Staff

    Abigail Ballou, Alexandra David, Shreya Iyer and Casey Nugent contributed to this story.


    1. Sraliceop@netscape says:

      Congratulations to Call9! I admire the motivation and purpose behind your work. May it enhance the Gift of Life for many people. And it all started with Al and Estelle! My best wishes and prayers!

      Alice Reichmeider, O.P.

    2. Chandra reddy says:

      Way to go
      We are all so proud of you

    3. kusuma rao says:

      Hi Nina my name is KusumaRao classmate of your parents at MMC.i want you to know how proud i am of you not just the intelligence but the compassion for others at such an young age.To tell our own self for nthe good of others in not known in indian community. you made all of us feel good keepup the goodwork and God bless you love Kusuma aunty

    4. Dr. Harneet V Thakur says:

      Hi Anshuman,

      I am very proud of you and lucky to have you as my student. It was known during your M.tech project that you will shine. Many best wishes and congratulations. I wish you grand success in all your endevours.

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