June 2014 archive

Biomarkers Under the Scope

Biomarkers Under the Scope: Harvard Catalyst course explores burgeoning field of study

Shraddha Chakradhar (Published online 14 May 2014 | Harvard Medical School News | http://hms.harvard.edu/news/translational-research/biomarkers-under-scope-5-14-14

Harvard Catalyst course Nearly 100 members from around the Harvard Medical School community gathered at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences this spring to learn more about biomarkers during four days of coursework offered by Harvard Catalyst, Harvard’s clinical and translational science center. The course, formally titled, “Understanding Biomarker Science: From Molecules to Images,” was filled with information ranging from discovering biomarkers to patenting them and everything in between.

“A biomarker is nothing but a way to classify your body’s abnormal response,” said Vishal S. Vaidya, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the director of the course. “Fever, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, X-Ray images, or mutations in genes could be examples of biomarkers that allow us to understand and classify diseases,” he said. Given this diversity of what constitutes a biomarker, it may seem like our current body of medical knowledge is chock full of biomarkers. Vaidya pointed out, however, that for many diseases, good biomarkers simply fail to exist. Several of the biomarkers currently used to diagnose and treat disease are based on science from decades ago and often can’t detect disease at an early stage. This lack of viable biomarkers, and the fact that there was no formal biomarker community at Harvard, or even in Boston, led Vaidya to create the course. “My vision was to start a course on understanding biomarker science for the Harvard community that offers a one-stop-shop to learn about the field,” said Vaidya. He hopes that the creation of a biomarker community at HMS is the first step toward bringing researchers from different disciplines together to catalyze innovative solutions using biomarkers. “A problem so complex requires team science. That is, basic scientists and clinicians. To not only talk to one another, but to also involve engineers and material scientists. To devise the best ways to measure biomarkers at the bedside,” said Vaidya.

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Posted by Vishal Vaidya on Sun, 1 Jun 2014