Campus & Community

Harvard students win in Collegiate Inventors Competition

2 min read

Discovers ways to improve drug testing and manufacture composite structural poles

Alice Chen, a doctoral candidate in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has received the graduate first prize in the Collegiate Inventors Competition for her work with tissue-engineered liver mimetics in mice. Chen received $15,000.

The competition promotes innovation by recognizing inventors and scientists early in their careers and rewarding students’ often-pioneering ideas as they address the problems of today’s world.

Chen, also a student in the Harvard/MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program, knew that although mice are widely used in medical research, they’re often not helpful for pharmaceutical testing. The liver is where many drugs are broken down, or metabolized, and mouse livers and human livers metabolize substances differently, but Chen developed a way to implant human liver cells in mice. Her approach is different from other existing techniques in that she implants a matrix that contains functioning human liver cells and the nutrients they need directly into a healthy mouse.  The matrix, once implanted, performs much like a human liver, making it beneficial for drug testing and other therapeutic applications.

Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows Erez Lieberman-Aiden ’10 SEAS and non-Harvard collaborator Nynke L. van Berkum received second prize for their work, and Bozhi Tian of Harvard Medical School and Tzahi Cohen-Karni of SEAS received third prize.

For more on the award and its finalists, the competition’s website.