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'Hacking Medicine' holds inaugural conference to create health care solutions

Total of $6,000 in prizes awarded to medical entrepreneurship projects
An interdisciplinary team tackles health care problems during the 'Hacking Medicine' conference.
An interdisciplinary team tackles health care problems during the 'Hacking Medicine' conference.
Photo: Andrew Rosenthal

“Hacking Medicine,” an organization founded out of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center that aims to stimulate medical entrepreneurship, held its inaugural conference this past weekend at the MIT Media Lab, bringing together 100 participants to identify the largest problems in health care and create immediate solutions. The participants came from a variety of backgrounds, including computer science, engineering, medicine and business.

The two-day conference exposed the participants to problems in health care through talks from industry leaders, including Jamie Heywood ‘91 of patientslikeme and Sutha Kamal of Massive Health. Participants then assembled into groups to tackle concrete projects, culminating in a pitch competition with six $1,000 prizes. Winning projects included a social network platform for interpreting medical imaging; shoe sensors to give feedback to diabetic patients to avoid foot ulcers; and an at-home physical therapy training device that uses the Xbox Kinect sensor.

“It's not my average weekend to find myself working on a health project with a couple of Harvard MBA students and a group of MIT programmers,” said physician Ford Vox of the New England Rehabilitation Hospital. “A fascinating experience for a practicing physician.”

Hacking Medicine is led by Elliot Cohen, an MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Allen Cheng, an MD/PhD candidate at Harvard and MIT; and Zen Chu, entrepreneur-in-residence at the MIT Entrepreneurship Center.

“Hacking Medicine is a movement,” Cheng says. “We want to raise the profile of medical entrepreneurship among students and practitioners throughout Boston and beyond. We want to connect thinkers and doers and to inspire members of diverse fields to unite and create health care solutions.”

The conference partnered with Health 2.0 and was sponsored by Novartis, athenahealth, patientslikeme and Massive Health.

After the conference, the organization plans to continue cultivating medical entrepreneurship through involvement with MIT courses, speaker series and hack-a-thons.

“By connecting passionate students with real problems that exist today in health care and research from around the Institute, we can dramatically speed up the pace of innovation in health care and medicine, bending the cost curve and improving quality,” Cohen says.

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