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Research gets real - Public votes determine winner of $100,000 research prize

Boston, MA Robert Green, MD, MPH, has been named the winner of the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize, after a unique competition in which nearly 6,500 online votes from people across the globe determined the winning project. Dr. Green's project, which will explore the genome sequencing of newborns, emerged as the winner after six weeks of public voting.

"I am grateful for BWH for creating this competition and I am delighted to win. At the same time all three finalists were fantastic and worthy of funding," said Dr. Green. "And I hope we can keep this momentum going so more and more people can get their creative pilot projects funded in this kind of way."

In this unique competition, BWH placed the power to determine what vital medical research gets funded in the hands of those who will eventually benefit from itthe public. For the first BRIght Futures prize, the BWH Biomedical Research Institute (BRI) wanted to award a prestigious seed grant to support research that is compelling and promising, but too preliminary or new to receive conventional external funding. It was intended to generate excitement and motivation within the research community and engage the public around these specific research projects as a way to educate the community about the vast array of innovative research taking place at BWH and to involve the public and patients in a more meaningful way in the process of research.

To initiate the BRIght Future's Prize process, the leadership at the BRI asked researchers to submit proposals for projects that fell into two major categories: Using genetics in clinical care and better using what we know about the immune system across diseases. From the project proposals submitted, two sets of peer reviewers selected three proposals they felt proposed equally outstanding projects to compete for the public's vote.

Green's project focuses on a randomized survey of new parents to find out if DNA sequencing of their newborns would be perceived as useful to them and why. If the expected enthusiasm of the new parents is confirmed, the research team will then conduct a pilot project to obtain sequencing in a small number of newborn babies, and integrate genomic information into their medical care.

In addition to Dr. Green's project the other finalists included a project jointly led by Drs. Phil DeJager and Elizabeth Karlson, whose proposal focused on using genetics and electronic health records to treat multiple sclerosis and a project led by Dr. Robert Plenge, whose proposal focused on the use of technology to unravel the mysteries of the immune system.

The award was announced at the inaugural Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) Research Day on November 15. The day-long celebration featured a discussion on the importance of research; presentations open to the public on today's hottest health topics such as obesity, healthy aging and personalized medicine by world-renowned experts; more than 150 posters illustrating some of the most promising work coming out of BWH's leading labs. A keynote address was provided by Dr. Atul Gawande, award-winning writer and BWH surgeon, entitled "The Century of the System."

Contact: Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg
Brigham and Women's Hospital

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