The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has won first prize for its Rapid Pathogen IDentification (RaPID) system in the “Big Undiscovered Idea” competition at the 2011 Massachusetts Life Sciences Innovation Day held June 2 in Boston.
Developed by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Start-up Initiative (MALSI), this annual conference brings together scientific leaders, business experts, academics, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists dedicated to maintaining the state’s position as a world leader in nurturing life sciences companies. The conference’s flagship event, the Big Undiscovered Idea Poster Competition, spotlights some of the area’s best fundamental research advances in biotech, medtech, and medical devices, that could influence the future of medicine.
This year, conference participants voted for five finalists from a field of 31 candidate posters detailing a diverse range of innovations from biodegradable wound dressings and prosthetic devices, to preventing tumor recurrence and treating chronic bacterial infections. A team of seasoned investment and start-up professionals selected the winner from this group of finalists.
The team also created a special award, which went to the Wyss Institute’s Geraldine Hamilton, to honor the best technology pitch to investors. Hamilton’s pitch involved the Institute’s lung-on-a-chip device, which recapitulates many of the major functions of the human lung to test the safety and efficacy of new drug compounds. As a reliable, timely, and economical alternative to traditional animal testing models, lung-on-a-chip could accelerate the arrival of affordable and promising new drug discoveries on the market.
RaPID was recognized for its potential to significantly improve the chance of survival for people with sepsis, a potentially fatal bloodstream infection that afflicts about 18 million people worldwide, resulting in some 6 million deaths. In late stage sepsis, the chance of survival decreases by as much as 9% for every hour that correct treatment is delayed, making a quick diagnosis critical to saving lives. Current diagnostic techniques take between 2 and 7 days to complete, RaPID dramatically shortens this time down to an hour. The Wyss Institute’s Advanced Technology Team Member Michael Super, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Daniel Levner, Ph.D., presented the winning poster.