Paying It Forward

MIT Spectrum

As the first person in his family to attend college, Digbijay (Jay) Mahat had the enthusiastic support of his father, who wanted his firstborn to receive the education he had not. Mahat vowed to seek the highest degree possible in what he considered the most prestigious discipline—science—to stay true to his father’s dreams as well as his own. Today, Mahat is a new father and an accomplished cancer researcher who considers humanity and public service to be every bit as important as education and science. Guided by advisors such as MIT Institute Professor Phillip Sharp, Mahat became a mentor with the belief that education can shape not only students’ professional trajectories but also the people they become. “The soft skills of working in a group, the culture of sharing resources, and compassion towards each other mold us into better citizens,” says Mahat, a 2021 recipient of the Peter Karches Mentorship Prize at the MIT Koch Institute. 

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In Memoriam, Dr. Arthur Gelb, 1937-2023

MIT Koch Institute

With sadness, the KI marks the passing of long-time supporter Art Gelb, ScD ’61 (XVI), whose advocacy and philanthropy played key roles in the launch of the Bridge Project. The Bridge Project launched shortly after the opening of the Koch Institute and has continued to grow, enabling work by dozens of teams who are developing notable advances in cancer detection, monitoring, and treatment. We gratefully acknowledge Gelb’s vision, commitment, and generosity, and are honored to be part of his living legacy via the Bridge Project.

Introducing the 2023-2024 Convergence Scholars

MIT Koch Institute

The Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine and the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine are pleased to announce the 2023-2024 class of Convergence Scholars. Founded in 2017, the Convergence Scholars Program (CSP) is designed to enhance the career development of aspiring independent scientists with diverse interests across academia, industry, science communication, and STEM outreach. This year's scholars are Jonuelle Acosta (Hemann Lab), Margaret Billingsley (Hammond Lab), Asheley Chapman (Irvine Lab), Allison Greaney (Langer Lab), Yizong Hu (Anderson Lab), Vardhman Kumar (Bhatia Lab), Corey Stevens (Belcher Lab), Elen Torres (Spranger Lab), and Bocheng Wu (Koehler Lab).

10 Years of the Bridge Project

MIT Koch Institute

In large part the brainchild of the late Art Gelb, ScD ’61, the Bridge Project was launched in 2012 with a simple idea uniquely suited to Greater Boston. Designed to leverage the collective expertise of MIT and Harvard, particularly its clinical cancer centers and teaching hospitals, the program’s goal is to enable collaborative research teams combining innovative science, tools and technologies with the translational expertise of clinical oncologists to solve challenging problems in cancer.  

Moving the Needle on Appendiceal Cancer

MIT Koch Institute

Co-hosted by MIT’s Laboratory for Financial Engineering and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the workshop “New Approaches to Accelerating Biomedical Innovation: Case Study on Appendiceal Cancer” brought together stakeholders across academia, industry, patient advocacy groups, and regulatory spaces to lay a foundation for accelerating the development of new treatments for cancer of the appendix—a disease with few effective treatments and a low survival rate.

Moungi Bawendi wins 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

MIT News

Congratulations to Moungi Bawendi, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Chemistry, on winning the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry! Bawendi shares the prize with Louis Brus of Columbia University and Alexei Ekimov of Nanocrystals Technology for pioneering the development of quantum dots. These semiconducting nanocrystals emit exceptionally pure light and have been deployed in computer and television displays and biomedical imaging. Bawendi has collaborated with Koch Institute member Linda Griffith and former administrator W. David Lee ’69 on the Lumicell Imaging System, a low-cost single-cell imaging technology for eliminating residual cancer cells during tumor resection. Supported in its early stages of development by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program through the Kathy and Curt Marble Cancer Research Fund, the system was pairs an injectable contrast agent with a hand-held, single-cell resolution imager to scan surgical margins for residual cancer cells. The system is now on the fast track to FDA approval, and could help eliminate the need for repeat cancer surgeries, reduce the incidence of relapse, and lower healthcare costs.

Congratulations to the 2023 Amon Award Winners 

MIT Koch Institute

The Koch Institute at MIT is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Angelika Amon Young Scientist Award, Johanna Gassler (Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany) and Ruxandra-Andreea Lambuta (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland). Gassler and Lambuta, selected for their commitment to discovery science, will present their research at the Koch Institute on Thursday, November 2. 

New Medium Mimics Metabolism

MIT Koch Institute

Scientists often use human cancer cells grown in the lab to test potential anticancer drugs. Yet, the culture medium used in the lab does not accurately represent the nutrients present in the body, leading to discrepancies in drug responses. In a study published in Cell Chemical Biology, the Vander Heiden Laboratory has developed a new culture medium that better mimics physiological nutrient levels, supports the proliferation of diverse cancer cell lines and is amenable to high-throughput screening. The group found that drugs targeting cancer cell metabolism showed the most significant differences in effectiveness between standard cell culture medium and theirs. These findings may help researchers understand why some drugs that worked well in the lab fail in real-life situations and provides a new tool for screening potential anticancer agents, especially those targeting cancer cell metabolism.

Better, Cheaper, Faster RNA Vaccine

MIT News

The Anderson Lab has engineered key vaccine components—both the nanoparticles that deliver the Covid-19 antigen, and the antigen itself—to boost immune response without a separate adjuvant. Such RNA vaccines could help reduce costs, reduce dosage needed, and potentially induce longer-lasting immunity. The vaccine may produce a strong enough response to be delivered intranasally.

KI Postdocs Named Banting Fellows

Government of Canada

Cheers to Erika Wang (Langer Lab and Jaklenec Group) and Binbin Ying (Langer and Traverso Labs) on being named Banting Postdoctoral Fellows by the Canadian government. The Banting Fellowship is a highly prestigious award that recognizes scholars who demonstrate outstanding potential to contribute positively to Canada's economic, social, and research-driven advancement. 

On the Shortlist for Cancer Grand Challenges Funding

Cancer Research UK

KI members Michael Birnbaum, Ömer Yilmaz, Brandon DeKosky and Regina Barzilay, as well as their MIT colleague Seychelle Vos, have been shortlisted by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute for the Cancer Grand Challenges as part of teams MATCHMAKERS, PROSPECT and KOODAC. If selected, these global, interdisciplinary teams will receive up to $25m to make radical progress against some of cancer’s toughest challenges.