MIT - CGI Collaboration
in Applied Biological Sciences


1967-1972 MIT Prof. Gerald N. Wogan initiates a long standing collaboration in public health between MIT and Thai researchers.  In Thailand, Prof. Stang Mongkolsuk, Dean of the Faculty of Sciences at Mahidol University, aids in the establishment of a laboratory to house this field study; the joint program is named MITHAI. Novel technology is developed by Profs. Wogan, Ronald Shank and George Buchi to detect and to quantify aflatoxin, making it possible to show that exposure to aflatoxin is associated with liver cancer incidence from cancer registry data.  Later in the 1970s, Profs. Wogan and Buchi, and John Essigmann, establish the molecular target underlying the carcinogenic activity of aflatoxin. 
2000 MIT Profs. John Essigmann and Ram Sasisekharan begin voluntary teaching in a course entitled "bioengineering and environmental health" at the CRI.  They are joined in this first year by Dr. Ganesh Venkataraman of MIT.  This first offering of the course focused on translation of basic science into products that serve a pressing need (in this case, inexpensive drugs for HIV/AIDS).  In the spirit of the course, Prof.  Sasisekharan and Dr. Venkataraman crafted the vision for Momenta Pharmaceuticals while they taught the course.  Momenta was founded the following year and in 2004 filed its IPO.  The current market capitalization of Momenta is over $400 million. 
Summer  2004 Prof. Ram Sasisekharan outlines a plan for empowering local scientists to grow a unique biotechnology industry in Thailand.  This plan for human resource pipeline development is grounded on development of infrastructure to provide knowledge, research training, and translational expertise through a global network.  In August of 2004, John Essigmann is awarded the Chulabhorn Gold Medal for earlier research on liver cancer and for helping start the summer teaching program at CGI. 
October 2005 Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn leads a Thai delegation in a visit MIT to develop further  the vision of a global research, training, and translation network under the umbrella of GEM4, the Global Enterprise in Micro Mechanics and Molecular Medicine.  CRI becomes a founding partner in GEM4. 
December  2005 Conference on Asia Pacific Environmental Health.  In a plenary talk, Prof. Sasisekharan describes the emerging paradigm in public health based on a tightly linked and coordinated program in global health research, training, and translation. 
June 2006 Southeast Asia - USA Workshop on Environmental Health.  In this meeting, co-organized by Profs. John Essigmann and John Groopman (Johns Hopkins University), the concept of a global network is expanded to include a bridge between the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the CRI.  NIEHS Director David Schwartz and NIEHS senior associates William Suk and William Martin represented the NIEHS global outreach initiatives. 
July 2006 Profs. Essigmann, Sasisekharan and Bevin Engelward present a framework for two new graduate programs in biotechnology to senior CRI Faculty.  In collaboration with CRI faculty, plans are laid for creation of the Chulabhorn Graduate Institute, a new teaching program that will provide the human resources for technology translation in Southeast Asia. 

Prof. Ram Sasisekharan presents a vision for the Alliance for Chulabhorn Translation (ACT), an umbrella non-profit organization to consolidate translational expertise, to Thailand's industrial leaders and the Minister of Education.  The decision is made to begin developing the translational opportunities of the new CGI educational program, in concert with the research programs of the CRI and the Chulabhorn Cancer Center, which will open in 2007.

October 2006 Prof. Ram Sasisekharan travels to India with a Thai delegation led by Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn.  The delegation includes senior Thai industrial executives and CRI administrative officials in a mission to explore the possibility of leveraging international partnerships on the path forward toward promotion of the biotechnology industry in Thailand.  The goals are to provide local, high quality jobs for people trained in the CGI academic program and, ultimately, to help Thailand become self sufficient in addressing its health needs. 
January 2007 Profs. Engelward, Essigmann and Sasisekharan collaborate with CRI faculty to launch CGI.  Over 140 candidates for admission to the new graduate school gather to hear the vision for this new training program.  From this pool, 33 students are selected to become the inaugural class of CGI students.
Spring 2007 Profs. Dedon, Engelward, Essigmann, Sasisekharan and Schauer help develop the core curricula for two new graduate training programs at the CGI, Applied Biological Sciences and Chemical Biology.  These programs complement the existing program in Environmental Toxicology.
March 2007 Prof. Mathuros Ruchirawat (CRI VP for Research) discusses bridging between MIT and Thai researchers with senior MIT administrative officials, including Prof. Claude Canizares (MIT Associate Provost and VP for Research) and Prof. Philip Khoury (MIT Associate Provost).  An MIT-wide Reception is held for MIT faculty, administrative officials, the VP of Research from the CRI, and Boston-area Thai students to introduce the MIT-CGI Alliance.  Over 75 faculty and students attend this event sponsored by the MIT CEHS, the MIT Department of Biological Engineering and the MIT Graduate Student Council. 

July 2007



November 2007


Profs. Dedon, Engelward, Essigmann, Sasisekharan and Schauer collaborate with senior researchers and faculty of the CRI to teach the first graduate class of students in the new CGI.  Three courses from the Core Curriculum are taught during the summer term to 33 first year graduate students.

Prof. Sasisekharan is awarded the Chulabhorn Gold Medal in recognition of his efforts to create a pipeline extending from basic research through translation in Thailand.

December 2007



March 2008

Profs. Dedon, Engelward, Essigmann and Wogan participate in recruitment of the second CGI class, to enter in the summer of 2008.  Professor Wogan spends one month in Thailand helping CGI junior faculty frame their research programs.

THAIROP is launched.  This program will be coordinated by Dr. Ellen Essigmann and will bring five to ten MIT undergraduate students to CRI for a summer of research.  The program is jointly sponsored by CRI and MIT.  MIT students enter the program through the IROP initiative (International Research Opportunities Program).