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Announcing Two Inaugural Research Grants for Connors BWH-MGB Collaborative IGNITE Awards

Pictured Left to Right: Co-Investigators Hadi Shafiee, PhD and Shruthi Mahalingaiah, MD, MS; Co-Investigators Lydia Pace, MD, MPH, and Florian Fintelmann, MD

The Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School, together with our partners in the Mass General Brigham (MGB) Office of the Chief Academic Officer, is thrilled to announce the awardees of the 1st annual cycle of the Connors BWH-MGB Collaborative IGNITE Awards. These pilot research grants, which support translational projects aimed at investigating female-specific and sex-differentiating factors impacting disease and treatment outcomes, will support two groundbreaking projects.

The first project, entitled “A personalized smartphone-enabled salivary bioassay for at-home ovulation prediction in women including those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) will be led by Hadi Shafiee, PhD, in the Division of Engineering in Medicine at BWH and Shruthi Mahalingaiah, MD, MS, in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MGH. The second project, entitled “Tackling sex-differentiating factors to improve lung cancer screening for women: Leveraging machine learning for risk stratification on low-dose chest computed tomography” will be led by Lydia Pace, MD, MPH, in the Division of Women’s Health at BWH and Florian Fintelmann, MD, in the Department of Radiology at MGH.

These projects were selected from a record-breaking number of innovative applications by a panel of expert investigators from across the MGB enterprise. The exceptional response to this Request for Proposals demonstrates the interest among our research community in advancing our understanding of the impact of female-specific and sex-differentiating factors in a broad range of disease outcomes and in the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as the commitment to advance the health of women through scientific investigation. It is also a demonstration of the excitement generated by opportunities of cross-institutional collaboration across MGB under the leadership of the BWH Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology.

The Connors BWH-MGB Collaborative IGNITE Awards will enable Drs. Shafiee and Mahalingaiah to develop a smartphone-based salivary test, leveraging artificial intelligence, for ovulation detection and tracking for women, especially women whose polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) leads to infrequent menstrual cycles and reduces fertility. The goal of this project is to facilitate fertility planning with a reliable at-home ovulation test.

In addition, Drs. Pace and Fintelmann will utilize machine learning to estimate women’s and men’s lung cancer risk based on images from computed tomography scans performed for lung cancer screening, evaluate how the accuracy of this assessment may vary by sex, and optimize the machine learning algorithms to improve their performance for both males and females. The goal of this project is to develop screening algorithms that better detect lung cancer in women and men.

To learn more about the Connors BWH-MGB Collaborative IGNITE awards program visit: connorscenter.bwh.harvard.edu/ignite/. If you are interested in supporting the IGNITE awards contact Annie Walsh, Project Manager at awalsh22@bwh.harvard.edu.

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