hat does great biomedical science look like? Is it an advance in cancer therapy? A device that helps people recover from injury faster? Or, is it an inexpensive tool that gives developing nations a chance to fight crippling disease?

Great bioscience looks like all of this, and those examples are among the nearly 150 entries you sent us for STAT Madness, our yearly contest to find the next best innovations in health and medicine.

On Friday, after several weeks of voting, we entered the round of 8, what we call the Innov8. The institutions still in the mix — Yale, Washington University, University of Michigan, Eastern Carolina University, Children’s National Health System, UC San Diego, and Texas A&M — represent findings in fields as disparate as cancer treatment, CRISPR, and artificial intelligence.


During the next few days, we’ll be hosting chats on social media so you can learn more about the eight research projects. We’ll announce them as they are scheduled on our Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts.

STAT Madness started as a single-elimination bracket of 64 entries that will, in just a couple of weeks, give us a crowd-voted favorite. (Click here for last year’s winner; click here for this year’s contest) And in the meantime, a team of STAT journalists has been going through the submissions to find the discovery we think will have the most impact in the years to come. We’ll announce that in a couple of weeks, too.

If this sounds a little rah-rah to you, well, you’re right. STAT Madness is fundamentally a celebration of science. It’s also a reminder: Tackling disease starts with small advances, often supported with federal funding. That research leads to the patents and startups that drive parts of our economy, and fuel the clinical trials that we hope will lead to new treatments, if not cures.

So, here’s to test tubes and T cells, and here’s a little more about this year’s pool of 64.

STAT Madness

Vote for your favorite innovation! Sign up for alerts when each round begins.

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It takes discipline(s)

The entries in STAT Madness fall into many fields of biomedicine. We have straight genetics — finding gene variations that correlate, if not cause, disease. We have computational biology, challenging the dogma of the primordial soup. We have robotics aiding rehabilitation, and nanoparticles, getting drugs to closed off places in our bodies. We have tons of CRISPR, because CRISPR. And, finally, we have translation — from reprogramming our immune systems to fight cancer all the way to how we train doctors to make decisions under the extreme duress of the ER.

It takes teamwork

Few of our entries come from teams entirely housed under one academic roof. We have bitter rivals on the playing field working together in the lab on stem cell treatments for lung disease. We have a research institution paired with a university to explore a simple solution to eye disease, and a major advocacy group teaming up with a nearby medical center to better understand the patterns of colon cancer.

It takes women (and minorities and immigrants)

We’re still counting, but at first glance, few, if any, of our entries are teams of all men. The women in STAT Madness are the lead authors, the lead investigators, the students, the postdocs, the technicians, and the clinicians asking the questions and guiding the work. Our entries are fueled by researchers who come from lots of countries, and some who are underrepresented minorities. We have one team of mostly female engineers tackling a problem in cervical cancer, multiple teams looking at aspects of breast cancer, one team looking at models for pre-eclampsia, and a team that is creating 3-D printed female organs. Then, of course, there are the patients — the people who participated in surveys and trials who are women.

It takes tax dollars

Whether studies in brain stimulation, results from a cancer immunotherapy trial, or CRISPR’ing our food supply, this year’s pool of innovations are funded publicly in one way or another. And it’s not just federal dollars — for some of our entries, state funding has played a huge role in either the creation of the infrastructure needed to carry out scientific research, or in the support of individual researchers doing the work.

It takes honesty

Conflict of interest is a serious issue in biomedicine, and it’s rarely ever cut and dry. We thank the teams who spelled out those possibilities upfront, whether through payments or funding from pharma, ownership in companies that might benefit from results, or through work they might do as consultants for industry. We decided not to rule any one entry out because of possible conflicts, and hope that as you read the entries and vote over the next few weeks, you’ll decide on your own what weight you’ll give to the issue. As for the editor’s pick, any potential conflicts will be part of our deliberation.

And, last, but not least, here are the teams competing in STAT Madness 2018. Watch the competition unfold on social media via #statmadness2018.

American Cancer Society
Baylor College of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston University
Boston University School of Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Brown University
Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering
Children’s National Health System
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Duke University
Duke University
East Carolina University
Emory University School of Medicine
Colorado State University
Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University
George Mason University
Georgia State University
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT
MGH/Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Michigan Medicine/University of Michigan
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Mount Sinai Health System
North Carolina State University
Northwestern University
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
NYU College of Dentistry
Oregon Health & Science University
Rice University
Stanford University
Stony Brook University
Texas A&M College of Medicine
Texas A&M College of Pharmacy
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
The Jackson Laboratory
The Ohio State University
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Tufts University
UC San Diego School of Medicine
UNC School of Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Rochester Medical Center
University of Texas Medical Branch
University of Utah
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Weill Cornell Medicine
Western University of Health Sciences
Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Yale School of Medicine
Yale University

This story has been updated to reflect the current status of the contest.

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  • I commend ECU for study involving an actual intervention for medical need as oppose to information from other studies that may “help in medical decision making of patient”

  • Very difficult to navigate through to STAT MADNESS. I usually manage through trial and error to get to it. Next year hopefully you’ll be able to set it up with better links.

  • It’s obvious that this site was not designed by a CMU engineering student. Not easy to navigate I can not leave my vote.

  • Hi,
    It is really hard to navigate to the stat madness vote. I have done it one time, today, I can’t even do it. And it is not my computer that does not allow. Please make it easier!

  • Please pass along any research projects related to addiction treatment. Primary Care and frontline specialist are overwhelmed with trying to treat this devastating and complex condition .

  • The innovative treatment protocol for the newly emerging health issues with skin cancer is known as Merkel Cell Carinoma. The new diagnosis of this skin cancer is being treated with a very different type of treatment protocol for the medical profession, at MGH where the patient is receiving treatment from a cancer/ tumor board consisting of medical doctors from several different specialized health care doctors.

    The little known skin cancer is being observed by health care professionals, and is increasingly evident for individuals who are from the “baby boomers era,” where countless individuals have been exposed to the sun’s harmful effects, because of the non-existent sun screen back in the years of sun exposure for this particular age group. The Oncology department has been very interested in the combination of ongoing treatments for the patient who present with this diagnosis.
    Surgery; radiation; immunotherapy IV; ongoing blood work and mri’s, plus some adjunct treatment- physical therapy, are an inclusive treatment protocol for this little known disease. As my family member is currently experiencing this issue, we are going through this experience with the ongoing treatment protocol that will continue to be a life-long commitment for the patient.

    Additionally, I read from NPR, the procedure that is taking place at the NYC facility where a physician is treating primarily breast cancer patients who have had surgery, and radiation treatments for the successful treatment that eliminated the cancer, and then post radiation treatments, left the patient with the rare disease known lymphedema, and/or cellulitis.
    Dr. Joseph Dayan is a reconstructive surgion with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY.
    From the article that appears on the NPR SITE that I received on 19 February, the post radiation treatment is the reason for this even worse condition than the original cancer; this is primarily because most of the medical professionals are not as aware of this deadly condition from the treatment protocol of the radiation treatments. I am unsure about whether or not this included the IV Immunotherapy protocol-which the patient must continue for a lifetime every two weeks.
    So, from what I am experiencing with my family member, is both these treatments and the side effects of the treatment protocols to date. We are going to try to investigate the issue of the side effects and whether or not we are going to have go to NYC. or whether or not MGH is prepared to offer the same type of treatment surgically for what Dr. Dayan is successfully accomplishing at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC.

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