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A previously unknown, rapid-fire connection between the gut and brain. A CRISPR-based test for viruses such as Zika and dengue, with results that can be read as easily as a pregnancy test. A pill that mimics the effects of gastric bypass surgery.

These are just a few of the 64 discoveries and inventions that made the cut for the third annual STAT Madness, the bracket-style competition for scientific glory modeled on college basketball’s March Madness.

The finalists were selected from a record 160 entries submitted by universities, medical schools, and research centers across the United States. The chosen research comes from the usual biomedical research hot spots of Massachusetts and California, but also from states such as Tennessee and South Dakota.


The first of six rounds of popular voting in the single-elimination contest begins Monday. The bracket will go live at 12:01 a.m. Each entry consists of a summary of the research and a link to an abstract or the full paper.

STAT Madness is a competition, but one with a not-so-hidden ulterior motive: Scanning through the entries should give readers an appreciation of the ingenuity and breadth of biomedical research being pursued around the U.S. There’s basic science: how physical forces may shape the brain, and how proteins in cells coalesce into membrane-less droplets that may ensure efficient expression of essential genes. There’s also the practical: a mobile app to more accurately assess pain and a desktop system to manufacture small batches of protein-based drugs.


There’s preclinical work exploring new explanations for Alzheimer’s disease and possible new treatments for malaria, TB, and fragile X syndrome. There is artificial intelligence to forecast sepsis or the flu, a new approach to cancer vaccines, a possible tinnitus treatment, and an experimental HIV medication that could, perhaps, be taken quarterly instead of daily.

One team captured the first video of bacteria “fishing” for free-floating DNA, a talent that could drive microbial evolution and the spread of antibiotic resistance. Another reported the dogma-bending finding that it had transferred a memory between snails, simply by swapping their RNA.

We hope you have as hard a time making your choices as we did in cutting the field to 64.

The final winner will be announced April 8, with an editor’s pick — based on the originality, rigor, and potential impact of the work — also revealed that day.

You can follow the action on Twitter using the hashtag #statmadness.

Here are the teams selected for STAT Madness 2019. (There are fewer than 64 entries listed because some schools have two entries.)

Baylor College of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston University National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory/ Becton, Dickinson and Co.
Boston University / U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Children’s National Health System
Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
David Geffen School of Medicine (UCLA)
Duke University
Emory University School of Medicine
Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Georgia State University
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Indiana University
Jefferson (Philadelphia University & Thomas Jefferson University)
Johns Hopkins Medicine
MGH/Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Michigan Medicine
MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
New York University
Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research / Harvard Medical School
Rice University
Rockefeller University
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute / University of California, San Diego
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Texas A&M College of Medicine
Tufts University
UC San Diego School of Medicine
University of California, Davis
University of Chicago
University of Florida
University of Massachusetts Medical School
University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Rochester Medical Center
University of South Dakota
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas Medical Branch
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
University of Utah Health
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin-Madison
UPMC (University of Pittsburgh)
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Weill Cornell Medicine
Whitehead Institute (MIT)
Wyss Institute at Harvard University

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