Innovations & Interventions: GI Surgical Leaks

Harvard Catalyst, in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson Innovation and its affiliates, has launched a funding opportunity seeking highly innovative proposals directed at reducing the complications resulting from post-surgery gastrointestinal (GI) leaks. Our goal is to reduce complications and improve outcomes; therefore, intervention can be done anywhere along the treatment continuum, from the pre-surgical, through surgical intervention, to post-surgical stages.


  • Proposals from any investigator with a Harvard faculty appointment will be considered for this funding opportunity
  • Investigators currently working to address the GI Leaks problem are encouraged to apply
  • Given the relative lack of progress in addressing the GI Leaks issue in recent years, novel and “outside the box,” combinatorial proposals from those in-the-field and investigators from completely different disciplines are especially of interest
  • Proposals addressing post GI surgery leaks throughout the GI system are encouraged

Proposals may focus on a variety of wound healing or clinical concepts, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Surgical techniques
  • Diagnostic or prognostic technologies
  • Biomarkers of leak susceptibility, leak progression, or clinical response
  • Therapeutics or treatment modalities
  • Cell biology of wound healing specifically in this setting
  • The role of the microbiome in this setting

Funding level

Up to $50,000 per award

Sponsoring Program

Translational Innovator

Application Process

In order to receive further information about the Letter of Intent (LOI) application process you (or your representative) must attend an Information Session (you need only attend one). We will be holding these sessions via Zoom on February 16, 2021 10am – 11:30am or February 24, 2021 10am – 11:30am. At these sessions, our team from Harvard Catalyst will describe the funding opportunity in greater detail. Additionally, researchers from Johnson & Johnson Innovation and its affiliates will present an overview of the medical need, the current status of GI resection and post-surgery leaks, and will be available for questions and discussion.

Following the information sessions, you will be sent further information on the Letter of Intent (LOI) submission process.

Background Information

Post-surgery GI leaks are a major medical problem with high morbidity and mortality. Novel solutions are needed.

  • Anastomotic leakage has been the bane of intestinal surgery for over a century
  • High leak rates complicate the ~8 million colorectal surgeries/year world-wide
  • Patients with anastomotic leaks have increased lengths of hospital stay, higher readmission rates, and higher mortality rates
  • Where required, reoperation also results in negative impact on quality of life
  • Various surgical techniques and interventions have been developed to mitigate leaks; no effective solution is available

Solutions to post-surgical leaks can be in any of these five areas are:

  • Relevant animal model
  • Detection of high-risk patients for the development of leaks
  • Development of prophylactic treatments for preventing GI leaks
  • Intraoperative GI leaks detection
  • Early detection of post-surgical GI leak