On March 12, 2014, KI faculty member and MIT President Emerita, Susan Hockfield, delivered the annual Edwin L. Godkin Lecture at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her remarks, delivered with humor, insight, and hope, focused on a subject that is at the very core of the KI’s approach to conquering cancer: the convergence of biology with engineering and the physical sciences.
Hockfield referred to this convergence as the third revolution of modern biology, following the discovery of the structure of DNA and the sequencing of the human genome. She cited three present-day examples of interdisciplinary convergence from MIT–all from the Koch Institute: Sangeeta Bhatia’s nanoparticles to diagnose diseases early and accurately, Angela Belcher’s biodegradable batteries made from viruses, and Robert Langer’s nanoparticles specifically designed to target cancer. Hockfield also called attention to key challenges—including silos created by various scientific disciplines, their separate languages, rigid institutional structures, and limited funding—that must be overcome to fully realize the promise that convergence holds. Yet, she was optimistic about the transformative power of convergence-driven breakthroughs in healthcare, clean energy, food production, and innovation-based economic development. “The future we have not yet imagined is upon us, and the possibilities of convergence are truly beyond our imaginations.”