Brigham IGNITE Launches

If a brilliant idea begins with a spark, it needs tinder to keep burning and, eventually, to catch on. The newly launched Brigham Ignite program is designed to help kindle and advance discoveries with clinical and commercial potential. Ignite works by guiding researchers through the development process, providing not just supportive funding, but also a team of experts in licensing, product development, intellectual property, and commercialization. The team can help principal investigators take the first steps onto the translational path and beyond.

Two of those team members — Glenn Miller, PhD, and Erin McKenna, MBA — recently spoke to CRN about what makes the Brigham Ignite program unique and what they hope to accomplish through its implementation. Miller is a market sector leader for Mass General Brigham Innovation who focuses on advisory services for faculty members to increase innovation across the hospital network. McKenna is an operating partner for Amplify (formerly the Translational Innovation Fund) and is leading the translation and project management efforts for Brigham Ignite. She brings experience from her work with the Boston Biomedical Innovation Center (B-BIC) and Boston Scientific.

Erin McKenna

Can you describe what Brigham Ignite is? What distinguishes it from other resources and awards?

EM: Ignite is more than just funding. It is a program that is being built to provide support for as wide a range of innovators as we can within the Brigham, to advise and consult with them on the ideas they have and help them determine whether there are paths forward from a product development standpoint, and if there’s potential for therapeutics, diagnostics or medical-device type ideas.

GM: The Ignite program is an umbrella program that helps any innovator within the

Glenn Miller

Brigham develop their idea to the fullest extent possible. This is really for everyone at the Brigham — anyone who has an idea that they think they might be able to commercialize, we’re here to help them do that. We’ll walk them through the process and evaluate whether or not the idea needs further development.

Who should work with Ignite?

EM: A range of innovators that have an idea. We assess that idea and determine if there’s a potential path forward from a product development standpoint.

For some people, we may be helping them create a first prototype or complete a first experiment that would help them get a little more evidence to show that their concept is viable.

We also envision finding innovators that are a little further along. They have developed their concepts. They have some evidence that shows that it’s viable. But they need some more help to move in a product commercialization direction. And that’s where our combination of funding and expert guidance can really help, not just in developing the technology, but making sure that we’re making the connections. You need to know that you are developing your technology in a direction that people will continue to pick up and invest in further to bring it out into the world.

GM: The program is not only for those people who think they already have a great idea, but also for those who are unclear about whether or not the idea they have is commercializable. We do receive a lot of questions from people saying, ‘I’m not quite sure this is patentable, but I think this could be very useful in the practice of medicine,’ for example, or they think it could increase productivity within a hospital, or could represent a process improvement or a digital health improvement.

Can you tell us more about the team?

EM: We have program managers coming in with industry product development experience to help investigators navigate the space of product development from an industry perspective. We will also have two focused licensing managers who will have their own portfolios of Brigham investigators. They will be serving to help bridge innovators to their supporting licensing manager and orient and navigate the space of thinking about innovation, disclosure, the patent process, and other types of agreements.

GM: The level of expertise of the people we’ve assembled and the years of experience they have, we’re measuring that in decades, not years. We’re bringing in heavy experience in doing out-licensing and starting new companies on the licensing side, managing industrial level programs large and small, and managing strategic approaches to commercialization and bringing products to market, from pharmaceuticals to diagnostics and devices. It’s a very broad and deep set of experience and expertise.

What are you most excited about as Ignite gets underway?

GM:  I got into the biopharmaceutical business to help people and the projects I’ve done over the course of my career have been aimed mainly at helping more and more people. The opportunity with this program is that it takes the ambitions of an entire, highly innovative hospital network and activates the minds within that network to improve medical care both within and outside of the four walls of the Brigham. It’s great to help patients at the Brigham. But the really exciting thing is that our community is changing how medicine is practiced beyond our hospital through their publications, products and commercialization efforts. Supporting those efforts is what really gets me going in the morning.

EM: At B-BIC, I really enjoyed the experience of working alongside innovators that had never been exposed to product development and commercialization, to not only help them navigate the space, but also see something move forward and emerge in the form of a startup or a licensed product. I’m really excited about being able to bring that experience to more innovators within the Brigham and collaborate more deeply with others.

Shark Tank Award Recipient

Alexandra J. Golby, MD

Alexandra Golby’s research focuses on the translation of a broad range of neuroimaging techniques to neurosurgical planning and intraoperative guidance. The overarching goal of this work is to help surgeons perform optimal brain surgery by defining and visualizing critical brain structures and pathologic tissue to be removed.

She was the recipient of a Brigham Research Institute Shark Tank Award in the amount of $50,000 for her project with Pablo Valdes Quevado, MD, PhD, ‘Color Coding Tumors’ in 2018.

Since 1998, she has worked on the development and validation of fMRI for the pre-operative evaluation of patients with lesions in and near critical areas of the brain. This has been a translational research effort which adapted fMRI, initially developed as a neuroscience technique to be applied in groups of subjects to make statistical inferences about populations, to the vastly different scenario of clinical decision-making for individual patients. Since the research program began at the Brigham in 2003, she has developed new techniques for the use of fMRI in single subject analyses necessary for surgical planning. In addition, she has developed numerous acquisition strategies geared towards accommodating the limited neurologic functions of some patients as well as analytic approaches to maximize the utility of fMRI for surgical planning.

Presurgical fMRI has the potential to bring meaningful pre-operative individualized functional anatomy mapping to neurosurgeons around the world as an alternative to awake mapping, a technique which is demanding and remains limited to very specialized centers.

Alexandra J. Golby, MD, Department of Neurosurgery

I have also worked extensively on the translation of diffusion MRI (dMRI) including tensor imaging (DTI) to map white matter anatomy in neurosurgical patients. Diffusion MRI allows the in vivo depiction of the location, course and integrity of macroscopic white matter tracts in the brain through a process known as tractography. As with fMRI, the translation of this technology to clinical decision-making has required numerous fundamentally novel approaches. We have developed segmentation approaches for defining tracts based on high dimensional clustering as well as statistical atlases which allow labeling of individual patient tracts even in the setting of mass effect and peritumoral edema.

Her group works collaboratively with MRI physics and MRI analysis groups to continue to be at the forefront of technical innovation. They have released many of our tools to the public via 3D Slicer ( and we have organized several international challenge workshops to apply diffusion techniques to real world clinical data.

With both these methods, translation of the technology required understanding of clinical needs, constraints, and opportunities for improved clinical care. Specific analysis techniques needed to be developed to adopt these techniques so that they were applicable to single subject data, and, in particular, to neurologic patients who have structural lesions and often are limited by their neurological deficits. In these efforts, her group works closely and collaboratively with scientists in radiology and computer science to translate emerging technical innovations into the operating room.

Another major area of translational investigation is in the development of intraoperative imaging techniques. Alexandra was the lead surgeon in developing the AMIGO (Advanced Multi-modality Image-Guided Operating Suite) at the Brigham and serve as the Co-director of AMIGO. AMIGO is one of the key resources of the National Center for Image Guided Therapy funded by NIH. This suite contains all contemporary imaging methods within an operating room environment and was specifically designed to support translational research. The suite is the site of many of surgical procedures in which they are developing strategies for intraoperative imaging and guidance.

Several of her group’s important research efforts are built on the AMIGO platform. These include the intra-operative use of high field MRI including development of intra-operative dMRI tractography. We have also leveraged the resources of the AMIGO suite to develop novel strategies to simplify intraoperative imaging using techniques such as ultrasound and stereovision to give surgeons information in near real time to guide surgery. Another area of research leveraging the resources of AMIGO is the development of tissue level molecular imaging. They have funded collaborative projects using mass spectrometry, Raman spectroscopy, and fluorescence imaging.

Our eventual goal is to give surgeons in most settings tools that will help them to perform safer and more effective surgery.

Alexandra J. Golby, MD
BRI Director's Transformative Award Recipient

Vikram Khurana, MD, PhD, MBBS

Vikram (Vik) Khurana is on the Neurology faculty at Harvard Medical School. He is currently the Chief of the Movement Disorders Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a principal research investigator in the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases. He is also Principal faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, an Associate Member at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and a Robertson Stem Cell Investigator of the New York Stem Cell Foundation. In 2014, Vik co-founded the biotech company Yumanity Therapeutics, where he currently serves as Senior Advisor. 

Vik’s clinical and research interests relate to neurodegenerative movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, progressive supranuclear palsy and the cerebellar ataxias. He grew up in Sydney, Australia, and is a medical graduate of the University of Sydney. He came to Boston as a Fulbright Scholar in 2001, obtaining his Ph.D. in neurobiology from Harvard University in 2006. His dissertation adviser was Dr Mel Feany in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He completed his residency in neurology at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospitals, and Fellowship training in movement disorders and ataxia at Massachusetts General Hospital with Drs Jeremy Schmahmann, John Growdon and Lew Sudarsky. During that time, he was awarded grants from the American Brain Foundation, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Multiple System Atrophy Coalition and Harvard Neurodiscovery Center.

Vik received postdoctoral scientific training in the laboratories of Drs Susan Lindquist and Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute, where, along with his wife Chee Yeun Chung, he led a study that succeeded in identifying and reversing pathologies in stem cell models of Parkinson’s disease (Chung*, Khurana* et al. Science 2013). As you will see on this website, Vik’s current research efforts continue toward development of therapies for neurodegenerative diseases by using models as simple as Baker’s yeast cells, to much more complex human stem cell- and organoid-based models. He is thrilled to have such a great team to join him on this quest.

Once upon a time Vik enjoyed playing blues guitar, photography and long-distance kayaking. These days, in his spare time he struggles to keep up with his two young daughters. Vik would be quite incapacitated without the constant support of his life and scientific partner, Chee Yeun, and his extended family in Australia.

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Daphne Haas-Kogan, MD

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Event Recap News Obesity Research Incubator Session

3rd Annual Obesity Research Incubator Session

May 15, 2013 – 4PM – 6PM, Bornstein Amphitheatre and Cabot Atrium

The Cardiovascular, Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders Research Center at the Brigham Research Institute considers obesity to be a top research priority in accordance with the recent National Institutes of Health Strategic Plan for Obesity Research. The goal of this session is to bring together obesity and obesity-related comorbidities, to promote cross-collaborative research efforts, and to stimulate new ideas for further investigation as well as to address this challenge public health crisis through research.

With the goal of promoting vibrant scientific discussions, Gail Adler, MD, PhD, introduced the event, the first hour featured oral presentations on a few select themes in obesity research in the Bornstein Amphitheatre, and the second hour offered an interactive poster session on obesity research in the nearby Cabot Atrium.


Targeting Start Domains in the Metabolic System

David E. Cohen, MD, PhD, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center and the Obesity Research Center at MGH, Robert H. Ebert Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard Medical School

Gastrointestinal Regulation of Metabolic Function – Insights from Bariatric Surgery

Lee M. Kaplan, MD, PhD, Director of Hepatology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

President's Scholar

Ana C. Anderson, PhD

ROC Department Representative

Katherine Burdick, PhD


Laura Fredenburgh

Laura Fredenburgh is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Physician in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Brigham. Laura completed her Internal Medicine residency training at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and her fellowship in the Harvard Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Program. She is an attending physician in the Brigham Medical Intensive Care Unit and is an NIH and AHA-funded physician-scientist investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive pulmonary hypertension. Laura’s laboratory uses molecular approaches and mechano-biological methods to understand how alterations in the mechanical environment regulate vascular cellular behaviors, cell signaling, and transcriptomic changes to promote pulmonary vascular remodeling in pulmonary hypertension. Laura’s work spans basic mechanistic research to translational studies to interventional clinical trials. Laura is passionate about mentoring and is deeply committed to promoting the career and professional development of research fellows and junior faculty. She is thrilled to be joining the Office for Research Careers as Faculty Director.