Meet Sangeeta Bhatia, $250000 Heinz Prize Winner from MIT

Dr Sangeeta Bhatia

Dr Sangeeta Bhatia (MIT)

Sangeeta Bhatia, a scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has emerged the winner of this year’s prestigious Heinz Award for developing an artificial human microlivers for drug testing.

The Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy, and Employment carries a cahs prize of $250,000 every year for extraordinary research work or contributions to arts and humanities; environment; human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy, and employment.

“This type of recognition helps to bring science into the public eye so that everyone can appreciate the dedication and innovation that is happening in laboratories all over the country,” said Sangeeta Bhatia, who is professor of health sciences and technology.

Sangeeta Bhatia’s team has done pioneering work to make artificial human microlivers, which are essential to test the toxicity of drug candidates for medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.

Bhati has tested these microlivers in her lab to model malaria test drugs to kill malaria parasites, which she hopes to make suitable for implantation in liver tissue as a complement or substitute for whole-organ transplant. The award will be given away at a ceremony to Sangeeta Bhatia on May 13 in Pittsburgh.

Currently, Director of Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies, Dr. Bhatia was trained both as a physician and engineer, and she has been focusing on leveraging miniaturization tools from the world of semiconductor manufacturing to impact human health.

“She has pioneered technologies for interfacing living cells with synthetic systems, enabling new applications in tissue regeneration, stem cell differentiation, medical diagnostics and drug delivery,” says MIT on its website.

With multidisciplinary approach, Dr Bhatia and her team have developed a broad and impactful range of inventions, including human micro livers which model human drug metabolism, liver disease, and interaction with pathogens, and a suite of communicating nanomaterials that can be used to interrogate, monitor and treat cancer and other diseases.

She has regularly published her work in Scientific American, the Boston Globe, Popular Science, Forbes, PBS’s NOVA scienceNOW, the Economist and MSNBC.

Trained at Brown, MIT, Harvard, and MGH, Dr Bhatia is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences, Biomedical Engineering Society, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Earlier, she has received the 2014 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the David and Lucile Packard Fellowship given to “the nation’s most promising young professors in science and engineering,” the NSF CAREER Award, the Y.C. Fung Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Young Investigator Award of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, the Brown Engineering Alumni Medal, and was named a Merkin Fellow of the Broad Institute.

She has also received the Harvard Medical School Diversity Award and the Harvard-MIT Thomas McMahon Mentoring Award for being a mentor and advocate for diversity in science and engineering.

She has been an advisor to governmental organizations on nanobiotechnology, biomedical microsystems, and tissue engineering, besides mentoring over 150 trainees who have developed more than 40 issued or pending patents and launched 10 biotechnology companies with 70 commercial products at the intersection of medicine and miniaturization.

Prior to her position at MIT, she held a tenured position at UCSD, and has worked in industry at Pfizer, Genetics Institute, ICI Pharmaceuticals, and Organogenesis. She has published more than 150 manuscripts which have been cited a total of over 14,500 times.

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