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MIT Building Statewide Health Innovation System

Boston skyline

Boston harbor and skyline, July 2013 (A. Kotok)

12 December 2017. A unit of Massachusetts Institute of Technology is establishing what it calls an innovation ecosystem that pulls together different players in health care to better serve the needs of patients. The project known as Learning Ecosystems for Accelerating Patient-Centered and Sustainable Innovation Project, or Leaps, is an initiative of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Innovation, and that unit’s New Drug Development Paradigms program.

Leaps seeks to link different parts of the health care system that tend to operate in different worlds, such as drug development and patient care, using the state of Massachusetts as its test site. A pilot program is expected to design clinical trials for a set of target diseases that not only test new treatments, but also connect the results to emerging information technology platforms and analytics that can add value and relevance to the findings.

Leaps plans to bring together patients, providers, payers, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, information technology firms, regulators, payers, public health officials, and academic researchers. In addition, the project is expected to give community hospitals and clinics a more prominent role in the innovation ecosystem.

Among the technologies and services to be linked to drug development data are electronic medical records, insurance claims, mobile apps, and patient registries that often monitor drug safety and effectiveness over time. And the project plans to adapt more recent developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technologies.

“Our goal,” says Gigi Hirsh, executive director of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation in a statement, “is to integrate a number of emerging but fragmented policy, process, and technology innovations into a system that works better for everyone, and especially for patients.”

The project launches officially in January 2018, with a set of target diseases under consideration including rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and opioid addiction. Drug makers GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, and Merck are providing start-up funds of about $500,000. Other companies and not-for-profit organizations are offering in-kind contributions.

The Leaps project is expected to be a key focus of discussion today and tomorrow at MIT’s Next Wave Forum, a meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts near the MIT campus.

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