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MEMP Alum Profile: Creativity with Care

Friday, March 6, 2015

Biju Parekkadan, PhD '08, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital

Towards the end of Biju Parekkadan’s tenure in HST’s Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) PhD program, he received a wake-up call. He had traveled to India to observe medical practices and the healthcare system as a whole. During the visit, he presented his latest research about using cell therapy to reverse acute liver injury.

A local doctor asked, “When can I use this?”

Parekkadan had no answer. “I realized there was more I could do to advance this technology. I was leaving a lot on the table.”

He returned from India with a new perspective on his career. Instead of following his PhD with an MD, he decided to focus his creativity and bioengineering know-how to turn research discoveries into practical solutions for patients.

Parekkadan, now assistant professor of surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), had invented a novel approach to cell therapy, the use of cells as drugs. Instead of injecting the cells into the body, he moved the therapy into a bioreactor outside of the body. By routing the patient’s blood through the bioreactor, the therapeutic cells could still have their positive influence, but remain contained. “Instead of bringing the cells to the bloodstream and losing them, we bring the blood to the cells,” says Parekkadan.

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