Past Recipients

Greg Ekchian

Postdoctoral Fellow, Cima Group
“Oxygen-sensitive Silicone Polymer for Quantitative and Longitudinal Monitoring of Tissue Oxygen Levels”

Greg Ekchian used his Kavanaugh Fellowship to advance the development of a polymeric silicone sensor, measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), for use in radiation therapy.  Hypoxia, the extreme depletion of tissue oxygen, is a hallmark of solid tumors. Poor clinical outcomes related to hypoxia have been observed in a number of cancers including cervical, prostate, and head and neck. One approach to address the poor prognosis is the delivery of an increased radiation dose to the low oxygen regions of the tumor. A compelling means to achieve this is to use high dose rate brachytherapy. It enables significant localized dose escalation without exposing healthy tissue and organs to unsafe radiation levels, allowing the elevated dose to be delivered only to hypoxic portions of the tumor. High dose rate brachytherapy is currently in use today, but without the benefit of oxygen-informed dose escalation. Past efforts to clinically implement oxygen-informed dose escalation have been severely limited due to the lack of an appropriate oxygen measurement technique to stratify patients and characterize tumor hypoxia.

As a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, Greg worked in the Cima Lab to develop a silicone sensor that could be used in tandem with high dose rate brachytherapy catheters.  During his Kavanaugh Fellowship, Greg developed a relationship with a clinical manufacturer to produce his sensors and worked with doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, to conduct the first clinical trial in cervical cancer patients.  He has since launched his company, Stratagen Bio, and is preparing to publish results from his first clinical trial.  In 2020–21, Ekchian was appointed a Blavatnik Fellow in Life Science Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School.

“The Kavanaugh Translational Innovation Fellowship provided an unparalleled opportunity to spend a year focusing on critical proof-of-product experiments and refinement of our business use case that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. It helped put me in the strongest position possible to succeed at translating and commercializing our technology.”