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Entries for this year’s STAT Madness, our annual, bracket-style competition in biomedical research, include some of 2022’s biggest discoveries, in areas ranging from Covid-19 and cancer treatment to medical imaging and surgery.

Popular voting begins on Wednesday, March 1, when first-round pairings will be revealed, along with descriptions of all the entrants’ research.

The 64 entries include an easy-to-use test to measure Covid-19 antibodies; a robotic drug-delivery capsule that powers its way through the perils of the digestive system; a helmet that boosts clarity in MRI images; and the discovery of genes responsible for seaweed-digesting enzymes (the study was sushi-inspired). A report on the pig-to-human heart transplant that made headlines early last year was also entered.


The research submitted for the contest made clear that Covid-19 still rests heavily on the minds of many scientists, as it does on society as a whole. Researchers examined the link between Covid-19 and diabetes, dove into the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on pregnant women and explored the biological factors that predict long Covid. One research group found an enzyme that, when blocked, might prevent the chronic form of the virus.

Not surprisingly, cancer was another common research focus in this year’s competition. Resistance to chemotherapy was explored by one research team, while another group determined how an unhealthy gut biome can trigger breast cancer metastasis. A study found that frozen testicular tissue held up after a 20-year freeze, potentially offering childhood testicular cancer survivors the ability to create sperm again. In another, a team sensitized tumors to immunotherapy by sprinkling nanoparticles across a tumor’s surface.


The research breakthroughs included advances in basic science. In one entry, scientists evaluated the functions of more than 5,000 essential human genes. Research teams peered inside the brain after traumatic brain injuries to find remapping in areas far from the injury site, and identified a molecule as a key decider in whether a memory will be remembered as good or bad. 

The inventiveness of some entries made them standouts. One research team developed a sensor that could quickly classify whether pneumonia was bacterial or viral. Another created a “vagina-on-a-chip,” modeled on the vaginal microbiome, to test therapies that regulate bacteria levels in the vagina. Researchers immersed patients in virtual reality during hand surgery and found less anesthesia was needed to keep them under. Others created the Swiss army knife of flu vaccines — an inoculation that protects against all 20 known subtypes of influenza. 

STAT Madness is a bracket-style competition based on college basketball’s March Madness tournaments. But the goal is larger than simply finding a winner. By scanning through the entries, STAT readers will gain an appreciation for the originality and range of biomedical research being pursued around the U.S. 

Voting will continue through six, single-elimination rounds before the winner of the popular vote is announced on April 4. At the 2023 STAT Breakthrough Summit, to be held May 3 and May 4 in San Francisco, a handful of Madness teams will be asked to be part of our programming and present their research. And on May 3, a party will be held for all Madness competitors, past and present. 

Follow the competition on Twitter using the hashtag #STATMadness.

Here are the teams selected for STAT Madness 2023. (There are fewer than 64 teams because some institutions have more than one entry.)

BAKX Therapeutics

Baylor College of Medicine

Beth Israel Deaconess

Boston University 

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Case Western Reserve University

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Duke University

Emory University

George Mason University

Institute for Systems Biology

MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research 

MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research

MIT Whitehead Institute 

New York University

New York University College of Dentistry

Oregon Health & Science University

Salk Institute

Stony Brook University

The Ohio State University

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

University of California, Irvine

University of Iowa

University of Louisville

University of Maryland School of Medicine

University of Miami

University of Michigan

University of Michigan Eisenberg Family Depression Center

University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center

University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation

University of Notre Dame

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

University of Utah

University of Virginia

University of Virginia Cancer Center

Vanderbilt University

Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Baylor College of Medicine.