About the Program

The Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering is a joint research and education programme between Harvard Medical School and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne [EPFL]. Launched in 2010, its team of scientists are addressing some of the most important issues in medical neuroscience, issues that, once solved, will have life-changing outcomes for patients. Its focus is not just on initiating research, but also on establishing cross-border and cross-institution working communities, within which knowledge can better be shared.

The aim of this collaborative project is to “begin to bridge the existing gap between basic and translational neuroscience”. In working to achieve its mission, the programme has brought together the complementary specialities of two world-class universities – one, EPFL, with a unique strength in engineering and technology; the other, Harvard, with a proud and important tradition of “alleviating human suffering cause by disease.”

With the first round of sponsored projects having been concluded, in 2014 Ernesto Bertarelli, on behalf of the Bertarelli Foundation, signed an agreement with Harvard and EPFL to extend and develop the programme, funding five new research projects:

  • Developing new methods for diagnostics of hearing loss

Developing new imaging methods for the inner ear, leading to a new way for diagnostics of hearing loss

  • New generation of auditory brainstem implants

Auditory brainstem implants, using high-density, flexible electrodes to help patients who ordinarily could not receive an implant due to a damaged inner ear or auditory nerve

  • Gene Therapy to Treat Deafness

A project that is a continuation of one begun at the very start of the Bertarelli Program, the team of scientists is exploring new viral vectors into the mechanosensory cells of the inner ear

  • Brain Networks in Children with Autism

Improving how children can be scanned using MRI; using these scans to test abnormal connectivity between brain regions (hypothesised as a cause of autism); and identifying those aspects of brain connectivity that correlate with specific types of autism.

  • Tissue Engineering the Macula

This project’s goal is to develop cell lines that could be transplanted into the retina to reverse certain forms of blindness and to discover drugs that could prevent or reverse retinal degeneration.

There is more about the five current Bertarelli Program research projects here.