NTT Research, Inc., a division of NTT (TYO:9432), today announced that it has named Joe Alexander, M.D., Ph.D., as Director of the Medical & Health Informatics (MEI) Lab. Dr. Alexander has served as Distinguished Scientist in the MEI Lab since February 2020. He succeeds Dr. Hitonobu Tomoike, who assumes the position of Research Professor at the NTT Basic Research Lab in Japan. In his new position, Dr. Tomoike will continue advising NTT’s overall medical research activities. Dr. Alexander, who assumed his additional role on June 1, 2021, joined NTT Research with an academic and pharmaceutical industry background to lead the MEI Lab’s bio digital twin initiative, which is focused initially on the cardiovascular (CV) system. He will continue to direct the CV bio digital twin group while harmonizing other MEI Lab projects within an overarching strategy that aligns with NTT Research and the broader NTT Group.
“We are delighted that Dr. Alexander agreed to accept this new challenge and excited to see the MEI Lab continue striving toward its ambitious targets under his direction,” said Kazuhiro Gomi, NTT Research President and CEO. “At the same time, we are grateful to Dr. Tomoike for his role in founding and leading the MEI Lab during its first two years and look forward to collaborating with him.”
The MEI Lab’s ongoing research is initially focused on multi-scale Precision Cardiology platforms such as the CV bio digital twin as well as a heart-on-a-chip technology – specifically aimed at developing the infrastructure for a digital replica of an individual’s heart. Such approaches draw upon a wide range of sciences and technologies, including physiological control systems, hemodynamics, causal inference, modeling and simulation, and cardiovascular dynamics. In addition, through a joint research agreement with the Neuroelectronics Group within the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the MEI Lab is working on nano- and micro-scale sensors and electrodes. Related research touches upon actuators, 3D transformable electrodes, biocompatible materials and other organ-on-a-chip microfluidics technologies. Wearable and remote sensing devices also continue to be of particular interest as these technologies evolve and mature to support future bio digital twin applications.
“It is an honor to follow in Dr. Tomoike’s footsteps and continue to advance our Lab’s ambitious ‘moonshot’ goals,” said Dr. Alexander. “One of my initial aims will be to support the deep work of all MEI Lab members for strategically aligned projects. Going forward, I also intend to look for ways to go wider and best position ourselves within NTT Research and the NTT Group at large, especially within the context of healthcare.”
Before coming to NTT Research, Dr. Alexander spent 18 years at Pfizer, Inc., where he had most recently served as Senior Medical Director, Global Medical Affairs. While at Pfizer, he worked in cardiovascular medicine, worldwide clinical imaging and measurement technologies, medical devices and pulmonary hypertension, and regularly conducting modeling and simulation research in many of these areas. He previously worked for two years at Merck, Inc. and spent eight years at Vanderbilt University, where he completed a two-year residency in internal medicine and served as a professor of medicine and biomedical engineering. Dr. Alexander obtained his M.D. and Ph.D. (biomedical engineering) degrees at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Momentum within the MEI Lab has grown significantly over the past year. In June 2021, Iris Shelly, an applied research engineer with expertise in biomedical signal processing and low-power devices, joined the MEI Lab as a Scientist. In February 2021, NTT Research announced that the MEI Lab had entered a joint research agreement with Japan’s National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center (NCVC) to develop cardiovascular disease-related computational models, implement them on a bio digital twin platform and develop applications for use by physician and patients. In November 2020, Dr. Jon Peterson, a biomedical engineer with a deep understanding of cardiovascular physiology, joined the MEI Lab as a Senior Scientist.
As it advances toward next-generation medical diagnostics and therapies, the MEI Lab’s CV bio digital twin research also provides opportunities for synergy across the two other NTT Research Labs. Among the areas being explored in the Cryptography & Information Security (CIS) Lab, for instance, are techniques that allow for computation on data that remain encrypted and private. The Physics & Informatics (PHI) Lab, meanwhile, is engaged in work on quantum information systems, one application of which could lead to the solution of combinatorial optimization problems that advance new drug discovery.
About NTT Research
NTT Research opened its offices in July 2019 as a new Silicon Valley startup to conduct basic research and advance technologies that promote positive change for humankind. Currently, three labs are housed at NTT Research facilities in Sunnyvale: the Physics and Informatics (PHI) Lab, the Cryptography and Information Security (CIS) Lab, and the Medical and Health Informatics (MEI) Lab. The organization aims to upgrade reality in three areas: 1) quantum information, neuroscience and photonics; 2) cryptographic and information security; and 3) medical and health informatics. NTT Research is part of NTT, a global technology and business solutions provider with an annual R&D budget of $3.6 billion.
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