MITCOB BioSummit

Speaker Highlights

Thanks to all our speakers, volunteers, and attendees!

We will see you Spring 2024 for the next installment of our annual event

The speakers below participated in the 2023 event

Kieren Marr, MD, MBA

Kieren Marr is an Adjunct Professor of Medicine and Business at the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Marr trained at Hahnemann University, Duke University, MIT, and the University of Washington / Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where she was on faculty for 15 years prior to relocation to Johns Hopkins in 2008.

Short Description: In this short overview, Dr. Marr will discuss how climate change impacts risks for important infectious diseases, including those transmitted by animal and insect vectors, those spread by changes in environmental temperatures and extreme weather events, and those influenced by water quality and quantity. Discussion will be focused on infections prominent in North America, although concepts pertain to global epidemiology. An intersectional framework that illustrates cumulative vulnerability to environmental infections will be discussed, incorporating risks specific to poverty, place, gender, race and age.

Ryan Robinson

CEO, Conduit Computing, Professor of Quantum Engineering, TEDx Speaker

Ryan Robinson is a visionary who builds quantum technology and possesses a unique combination of skills from both the humanities and STEM fields in an effort to change the world for the better. Born in Miami, Ryan Robinson began taking classes at Harvard at 15. He competed in DECA, the world's largest business competition and scored in the 99th %ile for both economics and marketing management.

Short Description: In the upcoming presentation, titled “The New Normal: Quantum Engineering the Future,” I will discuss two innovative technologies that hold significant promise in combating future pandemics like COVID-19 in 2020. The first technology is nanoSPLASH, a simple and rapid saliva-based diagnostic test that is being developed to be used at home, providing results in under an hour. It is a game-changer in terms of testing, with its ability to produce a red color indicating a positive infection, while remaining colorless for negative results. The second technology is quantum machine learning, which has shown great potential in predicting global pandemics with higher accuracy than traditional statistical models. In my talk, I will present a comparative analysis of continuous variable quantum neural networks and quantum backpropagation multilayer perceptron to highlight the power and future potential of quantum machine learning in pandemic modeling. Together, these two technologies present a bright future of the New Normal, where combating pandemics can be more accessible, accurate, and effective.

Logan Collins

Futurist, Synthetic Biologist, Author, and PhD candidate, Washington University in St. Louis, TEDx Speaker

Logan Thrasher Collins (2023 Foresight Institute Fellow) is a synthetic biologist, innovator, author, and futurist. When Logan was 16 years old, he invented a de novo aggregating antimicrobial peptide called OpaL as a new way of combating antibiotic resistant infections.

Short Description: Logan Thrasher Collins works in synthetic biology, a field that centers on creative design of biological systems. Using synthetic biology principles, Logan has developed donor bacteria that deliver DNA encoding an aggregating antimicrobial peptide into recipient bacteria to fight antibiotic resistant infections. Logan has also employed synthetic biology to develop complexes of multiple physically linked viruses which may expand the potential portfolio of human diseases treatable by gene therapy. He will discuss both of these technologies and their implications in his talk.

Vadim Gladyshev, PhD

Vadim N. Gladyshev, Ph.D., is Professor at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. Raised in the USSR, Prof. Gladyshev graduated from high school with a gold medal while completing music school, and received his BS/MS degrees with highest honors from the Moscow State University (in 1988) followed by a PhD in Biochemistry (in 1992), while in parallel being an accomplished chess player.

Cavin Ward-Caviness, PhD

Dr. Cavin Ward-Caviness is a computational biologist and Principal Investigator at the US EPA, where he used high-dimensional omics data and electronic health records to investigate a) the molecular mechanisms linking environmental exposures and adverse health, b) quantification of environmental health risks for vulnerable communities and identification factors which modify such risks. Dr. Ward-Caviness received his undergraduate degree from Tulane University (New Orleans), where his interest in mathematics and public health developed.

Short Description:   Environmental conditions are a key determinant in the health and wellness of both individuals and populations. However, we understand little about what makes people more sensitive to various adverse environments. Understanding environmental sensitivity is a key step in making environmental risk prediction more personalized and in addressing environmental justice concerns which often results in communities being exposed to multiple environmental contaminants which can have non-additive health risks. In this talk we will examine how epigenetic aging may be able to provide insight into the impact of the environment on the aging process and also shed light on who might be most at risk.

Anirban Kundu, PhD

Dr. Anirban Kundu graduated with a PhD in Environmental Engineering from McGill University, where he researched bioremediation strategies for diesel contaminated Traditional Lands in Northern Quebec and developed smart nanomaterials capable of slow-releasing agrochemicals to plants and reduce fertilizer overuse.

Short Description:   Agriculture is a complex system, with resource inefficiencies in upstream, on-farm, and downstream processes. Macro– and micronutrients are critical for crop growth, however 50-85% wastage in the conventionally applied fertilizers prompt for sustainable nutrient supply methods to crops. Nanomaterials offer promise of smart nutrient delivery to plants, as indicated in a vast majority of studies, yet its application in practise is limited. This talk will discuss the nano-agriculture landscape, unique applications of nanomaterials as agents of targeted delivery, slow release, and gene delivery to plants, possible risks, and mitigation routes for commercial practise, and how Anirban’s collaborative work led to unique insights in uptake and supply of nano-agrochemicals to food crops. The overarching goal of this talk is to demonstrate the use of nanomaterials towards sustainable food systems, and how they can lead towards stewardships in resource (water, nutrients) application, and prevent environmental pollution. 

Gary Cohen

Dr. Gary Cohen is Co-Founder and President of Health Care Without Harm (Established 1996), a global non-profit organization transforming the healthcare sector to become more sustainable and encompassing community and planetary health. Health Care Without Harm ( has built a large network with partner organizations in 82 countries addressing climate change and health as a strategic imperative.

Short Description:   The climate crisis is a force multiplier for all the social, racial and health inequities that people face around the world. Additionally, food-related diseases and food insecurity are large drivers for disease and preventative health care costs. By addressing the dysfunctions of the food system with institutional partners and communities, the health care sector can achieve multiple societal transformations at the same time: supporting more sustainable and climate smart farming, creating jobs, addressing food insecurity, treating food as medicine, modeling healthy food environments and helping to demonstrate how health care organizations can act as anchors for sustainability, resilience and health equity in the communities it serves. This talk will demonstrate that this scenario is not only possible, but it is already happening.

Pilar Pedrinelli

Pilar Pedrinelli is a BCG Expert in Food Systems & Nature Based Solutions, part of the Climate & Sustainability and Social Impact Practice areas. Over the past 8+ years, working across Africa, North America, EU and the UK, she has helped different stakeholders across MSAs, NGOs, private sector to achieve higher impact with their environmental and social goals, developing expertise on nature-based solutions, adaptation and resilience and social innovation.

Short Description:   Nature-based solutions are a fundamental pathway to create sustainable and just food systems and solve environmental challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and soil degradation. By prioritizing nature-based solutions, we can ensure that our food systems are resilient, sustainable, and socially just. In this talk, we will discuss the various co-benefits of solutions that work with nature, including increased biodiversity, improved soil health, and enhanced food security and explore ways in which we can prioritize their implementations through regenerative agricultural practices and policies to deliver a sustainable and just future for our food systems and the planet.

Greg Sixt, PhD

Dr. Greg Sixt is Director of the Food and Climate Systems Transformation (FACT) Alliance–– a global network of over 20 leading research institutions and stakeholder organizations led by MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) working to shorten the link between research and action.

Short Description:   The presentation will highlight the interconnected challenges between food systems and climate change and the role that collaborative research networks can play in developing solutions. I will introduce the MIT J-WAFS-led Food and Climate Systems Transformation (FACT) Alliance, a global network of over 20 member institutions committed to transforming the sustainability of food systems through collaborative, inclusive, action-oriented research. The presentation will describe the FACT Alliance convergent approach, which integrates diverse research disciplines and includes stakeholders as partners.  I will close by introducing FACT’s inaugural research project, the Jameel Index for Food Trade and Vulnerability, which is building a model to predict global food demand, supply balance, and bilateral trade under different likely future scenarios, with a focus on climate change.

Sebastian Eastham, PhD

Dr. Eastham has worked for over a decade at the intersection of atmospheric science, environmental impact analysis, and aerospace engineering, working to better understand and reduce the atmospheric impacts of anthropogenic emissions using high-resolution computational models of the atmosphere in concert with data from Earth observation assets.

Short Description:   Outdoor air pollution is a clear and urgent example of how global human health is intricately connected to the state of our environment. Exposure to polluted air is the fourth leading cause of early death worldwide, responsible for over 6 million deaths every year. This talk will discuss why this remains true, despite decades of progress on air pollution research in wealthy nations, and why this is a challenge which is being magnified and complicated by global climate change. It will also chart some paths forwards to solve this problem. Results from recent and ongoing research will be shown which demonstrate some of the latest understanding in the relationship between climate, air quality, and public health. This will highlight the need for coordinated interdisciplinary research to connect the human, economic, political, and physical science factors which will be needed to guarantee clean air for all in a changing climate.