What makes a scientist a superstar? The journal STAT has a theory. The publication’s “Wunderkinds 2018” list is out, highlighting unheralded heroes in science and medicine after an extensive review of nominations in the hundreds by STAT editors and reporters. On the list are three Partners HealthCare-affiliated physicians who are helping to answer some of medicine’s most vexing questions.
Dennis Jones, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)
Dennis Jones, PhD, admits to having the travel bug—which may explain his strong interest in how toxins like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known as MRSA) and cancer cells travel through the lymphatic system. Dr. Jones, a MGH postdoctoral fellow, is using this insight to uncover the mechanisms of disease—knowledge that he hopes will lead to more effective therapies. Originally from a small town in Mississippi, Dr. Jones has a passion for health and science that seems to run in the family. His curiosity, shared by his wife whom he met in graduate school, is shared by their nearly four-year-old daughter. “She’s curious about a lot of things, so maybe that’s the start of being a good scientist,” he says.
Abraar Karan, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)
When Abraar Karan, MD, PhD, was an undergraduate student, a service trip to the Dominican Republic helped shaped his future career. Since then, his passion for global health has brought him to Uganda, Nicaragua, Thailand, Mozambique, and his home country, India, in search of global health solutions that make a sustained impact. At the top of that list is preventing mosquito bites, to blame for a range of diseases. Dr. Karan co-founded Hour72+, a company producing a long-lasting insect repellant based on a special polymer created more than 10 years ago. “The characteristics of the polymer allows for long-term adhesion to the skin without absorbing through the skin,” Dr. Karan explains. Slated for near-term release in the U.S., Nigeria, and Brazil, the product is likely the first of many innovations from this physician-scientist as he becomes a Global Health Fellow in 2019 and 2020.
Jennifer Manne, MGH and BWH
The unfolding career of Jennifer Manne, MD, PhD, might be summed up in three words: Knowledge is power. Following her medical residency, Manne earned a grant to study diabetes diagnosis among people with and without HIV in South Africa. Evaluating everything from medications to a patient’s awareness of his or her disease, Dr. Manne made an important observation. “If you don’t know you have a condition, you can’t implement lifestyle changes or take medicines,” she says. Dr. Manne showed a troubling lack of diagnosis and follow-up, with low numbers of patients having been administered a glucose test or medication. Since then, she’s studied similar global challenges, making contributions to a study of hypertension and diabetes prevalence in India and an empirical study of health system performance vis a vis diabetes treatment in 29 low- and middle-income countries. In her new role as clinical and research fellow at MGH and BWH, Manne hopes to continue to uncover how health systems can support education and treatment in the context of infectious disease.
More on STAT’s 2018 Wunderkinds here.