Research Fellow @ Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Resident Physician @ Mount Sinai Hospital

Grass-roots entrepreneurship complements traditional top-down innovation in lung and breast cancer

Khalil B. Ramadi, Rhea Mehta, David He, Sichen Chao, Zen Chu, Rifat Atun, Freddy T. Nguyen. npj Digital Medicine 2022-01-21

Full Text
The majority of biomedical research is funded by public, governmental, and philanthropic grants. These initiatives often shape the avenues and scope of research across disease areas. However, the prioritization of disease-specific funding is not always reflective of the health and social burden of each disease. We identify a prioritization disparity between lung and breast cancers, whereby lung cancer contributes to a substantially higher socioeconomic cost on society yet receives significantly less funding than breast cancer. Using search engine results and natural language processing (NLP) of Twitter tweets, we show that this disparity correlates with enhanced public awareness and positive sentiment for breast cancer. Interestingly, disease-specific venture activity does not correlate with funding or public opinion. We use outcomes from recent early-stage innovation events focused on lung cancer to highlight the complementary mechanism by which bottom-up “grass-roots” initiatives can identify and tackle under-prioritized conditions.

Khalil Ramadi

Rhea Mehta

David He

Sichen Chao

Zen Chu

Rifat Atun

Freddy Nguyen


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Physician-scientist with extensive experience developing and translating nanotechnologies and biomedical optical technologies from the bench to clinic in areas of genetics, oncology, and cardiovascular diseases. Extensive experience in community building in healthcare innovation, research, medical, and physician-scientist communities through various leadership roles.


Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow
Institute for Medical Engineering and Science

Research Fellow, MIT Innovation Initiative
Former Co-Director, MIT Hacking Medicine
Regional Director – Europe, MIT Hacking Medicine
Co-Director, MIT COVID-19 Challenge
Co-Director, MIT Hacking Racism Challenge

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139


Resident Physician, PGY-3,
Department of Pathology, Molecular and Cell-Based Medicine

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai Hospital
One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1194
New York, NY 10029