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In the News

Putting Pen to Purpose

Two KI trainees are drawing on their own experiences as researchers in academia to offer mentorship and guidance to those pursuing similar career paths. Ritu Raman, a postdoctoral fellow in the Cima and Langer Labs, writes for the Society of Women Engineers: Women in Academia blog about her first year as a postdocoral researcher at MIT and gives tips for the graduate student to postdoc transition. Lauren Stopfer, a PhD candidate in the White Lab, was inspired to contribute to the MIT Graduate Student Admissions blog after attending a writing workshop during MIT's Independent Activities Period. Stopfer, who now serves on the blog's editoral board, uses the platform to give prospective students an authentic glimpse into the life of a MIT graduate student.  more...

 Fellow faculty members Michael Yaffe, Michael Hemann, Angela Koehler, Matthew Vander Heiden, and Forest White join the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine

Targeting Patient Success with Precision Cancer Medicine

We are excited to kick off the new year by announcing the launch of the new MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, housed within the KI and established by a major gift from an anonymous donor. With Director Michael Yaffe at the helm, the Center will advance progress within the field of precision medicine — one of the KI's five research focus areas. Fellow faculty members Michael Hemann, Angela Koehler, Matthew Vander Heiden, and Forest White join this endeavor. Driven by internal and external collaborations, particularly with clinical partners, the Center will focus on identifying the most effective drugs and combinations for individual patients. Read more. more...

The Koch Institute is thrilled to announce four new extramural faculty members: Regina Barzilay, Ed Boyden, Jeremiah Johnson, and Alex Shalek.

New Year Brings New KI Members

The Koch Institute is thrilled to announce four new extramural faculty members: Regina Barzilay, Ed Boyden, Jeremiah Johnson, and Alex Shalek. Barzilay, the Delta Electronics Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, will bring to the KI her unique expertise in using data and machine learning to advance cancer detection and treatment. She is the recent recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, which is known by many as the “genius award.” Boyden is Associate Professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT's McGovern Institute and Media Lab, where he leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group. His work focuses on developing tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applying those tools systematically to reveal fundamental principles of biological function. Boyden was recently named the recipient of NIH's Transformative Research Award. Johnson, Associate Professor of Chemistry at MIT, works to develop new macromolecule tools to address problems in chemistry, medicine, biology, energy, and polymer physics. He was recently named the winner of the MIT School of Science Teaching Prize for Undergraduate Education. Lastly, Shalek, who was recently named the Pfizer Inc.-Gerald Laubach Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, leverages advances in nanotechnology and chemical biology to develop broadly applicable platforms for manipulating and profiling many interacting single cells in order to examine ensemble cellular behaviors from the bottom up. Fun fact: Alex was also a Koch Institute Image Awards winner back in 2013. Welcome, all! more...

Garg named Johnson Clinical Investigator

This month, Salil Garg begins his appointment as the Koch Institute’s new Charles W. (1955) and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator. Garg’s research is focused on understanding the role of microRNAs and other potential drivers of ‘mutationally bland’ cancers. Since these tumors have few genetic mutations, which makes them unsuitable for genetically-targeted cancer therapies, Garg and his research group are studying other possible avenues for intervention. He is also working with the Anderson and Sharp laboratories to develop a technology for single cell microRNA sequencing as a diagnostic for early cancer detection. Garg, a former Sharp Lab postdoc, is board certified in clinical pathology and completed a fellowship in molecular genetic pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he currently practices. Learn more. more...

When it comes to drug delivery to the brain, ultrathin is in.

Cannula Believe It?

When it comes to drug delivery to the brain, ultrathin is in. As published in Science Translational Medicine, a team comprised of KI members Michael Cima and Robert Langer, KI alum and Assistant Professor at MIT's Media Lab Canan Dagdeviren, and the McGovern Institute's Ann Graybiel, have developed a device to deliver drugs to very specific areas of the brain — even its deepest regions. At the heart of the system is an ultrathin needle, a miniaturized cannula about the width of a single strand of hair, containing several tubes that release multiple drugs at controlled and precise doses and locations. This strategy supports another of the researchers' goals — to bypass the blood-brain barrier and avoid harmful side effects that can be caused by drugs meant for the central nervous system getting into the brain. This innovative delivery system has high potential for studying and treating neurological disorders, and possibly brain cancer as well. Read more in MIT NewsThe Washington Post, and The Boston Herald. more...

Ingenuity unfolds when ancient art meets modern engineering—just ask KI graduate student Katerina Mantzavinou, who aims to make ovarian cancer treatment less invasive, less toxic, and more effective.

Arts and Crafting Cancer Solutions

Ingenuity unfolds when ancient art meets modern engineering—just ask KI graduate student Katerina Mantzavinou, who aims to make ovarian cancer treatment less invasive, less toxic, and more effective. Working in the Cima Lab, she is developing an origami-like device that will be directly inserted into the abdomen to administer local intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. The device, prototyped with support from the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program, releases a continuous low-dose of IP chemotherapy—an approach that the team previously showed, with support from the Bridge Project, to be as effective as the current IP regimen of periodic high-dose chemotherapy, while causing less toxicity. Learn about the origami-inspired creation of the implantable device from Mantzavinou and Cima and see their innovative idea come to life in this video feature from STAT. This project, also featured on Yahoo!, will make another appearance in the upcoming Image Awards exhibition, opening March 9 in the Koch Institute Public Galleries. more...

A collaborative Bridge Project team, led by MIT biologist Amy Keating and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute physician-scientists Loren Walensky and Anthony Letai, describe a novel strategy for inhibiting Mcl-1, a protein that is often overexpressed in cancer and contributes to tumor cell survival and resistance to chemotherapy.

Fit to be Peptide

A collaborative Bridge Project team, led by MIT biologist Amy Keating and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute physician-scientists Loren Walensky and Anthony Letai, describe a novel strategy for inhibiting Mcl-1, a protein that is often overexpressed in cancer and contributes to tumor cell survival and resistance to chemotherapy. The team modified small protein fragments, or peptides, using chemical approaches and sequence optimization techniques, to produce peptides that are stable and can enter cells. When administered to cancer cells that are dependent on Mcl-1 for survival, the peptides successfully induced cell death. This research, published in PNAS, could lead to the development of new drugs for many different cancer types, and thus holds significant promise for clinical translation.  more...

Signing Off for 2017

As the calendar year draws to a close, we reflect on the impact of our signature programs since the Koch Institute's founding. Throughout the year, it has been our honor to share success stories from both the Frontier Research Program, including trainee-driven research that has taken laboratories in new directions and innovative companies that have taken biotech by storm, and the Bridge Project collaboration with Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center — which was recently featured on MIT News. We are also delighted to share two in-depth presentations about some of the clinical progress that has inspired supporters and benefited patients over the past five-plus years. We look forward to much more, from both programs, as we bring together new perspectives and new collaborators to accelerate cancer solutions in 2018 and beyond. more...

The Spirit of Inquiry

Driven by curiosity and encouraged by mentors, mechanic-turned-cancer researcher Ryan Kohn of the Jacks Lab has found his niche at the Koch Institute. Kohn, who is currently pursuing a PhD in biology at MIT, found his interest in cancer research piqued after the loss of two close family members, and, despite an unconventional background, followed his fascination to study cancer immunotherapy. At the KI, Kohn relishes in the translational potential of his research, the scientific freedom that the lab offers to explore bold and out-of-the-box ideas, and the diversity and ideals that the MIT community has to offer. Read more. more...

Cancer Metabolism Makes Its Mark

For the second year in a row, a KI alum has been named a winner of the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists! Jared Mayers — a former doctoral student in the Vander Heiden Lab and now a resident in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital — was selected for the prize based on the work described in his essay, "Metabolic markers as cancer clues." The essay recounts Mayers' investigations using analysis of whole-body metabolic markers to understand early-stage cancer progression and identify potential metabolic weaknesses that could be exploited therapeutically. The approach also revealed strong evidence that tumors initiated by the same genetic changes can have wildly different effects on whole-body and cellular metabolism depending on the tumor’s tissue of origin. These findings suggest a shifting paradigm for personalized medicine, arguing that context plays as critical a role as the genetic drivers, and offering new insights into early disease stages. In recognition of his illuminating research and essay, Mayers — similarly to 2016 prize winner and KI alumna Canan Dagdeviren — traveled to Stockholm to receive his medal and attended the 2017 Nobel Prize Ceremony. Read Mayers' award-winning essay here. more...