Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Voting commences on research prize determined by public poll

It’s an off year in the US election cycle, which means that neither the President nor most members of Congress will face the voters come November. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still cast a ballot this fall. Today, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston announced the finalists for the second annual BRIght Futures Prize, a $100,000 research contest in which the winner is decided by a public poll. Voting is now open through 21 November.

The BWH launched the prize last year in an effort to engage the public-at-large. First, the hospital’s Biomedical Research Institute (BRI) solicited grant proposals from BWH staff on various overarching themes: last year, those were personalized medicine and systems immunology; this year, the topics span the nine featured at the hospital’s ‘research day‘ in November (where the BRIght Futures Prize winner will be announced). Then, the BRI convened peer-review panels to winnow the applicants down to three finalists, each of whom made a short video to pitch their ideas to the public. (See my coverage of last year’s prize: ‘Biomedical grant awarded by ‘American Idol’-style public vote’.)

Last year’s winner was Robert Green, a clinical geneticist at BWH who proposed to sequence the genomes of 480 newborns, half from healthy babies and half from sick babies, in an effort to study how to use that information in routine medical care. Off the back of his BRIght Futures Prize, which served as a sort of pilot grant, earlier this month Green won a $6 million grant from the US National Human Genome Research Institute to roll out his plan in full. (See ‘Scientists to sequence genomes of hundreds of newborns’ from the Nature News blog.)

This year’s finalists include: Utkan Demirci*, a biomedical engineer who aims to advance a point-of-care microfluidic device for detecting levels blood levels of antiepileptic drugs; pharmacoepidemiologist Daniel Solomon and healthcare researcher Joel Weissman, who hope to create an online patient portal to streamline clinical trial enrollment and boost participation; and plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahač and bioengineer Jeffrey Karp, who propose to develop a new generation of adhesive medical tapes based on biologically-inspired designs. (See my February 2013 news feature about Karp’s investigations of ‘biomimetic’ adhesives: ‘The sticking point’.)

You can watch all the finalists’ videos and read short descriptions of their research proposals here. Check them out, and then exercise your voting right!

*Update: Demirci was named the winner at the BWH Research Day on 21 November.

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