You could say that local physician and scientist Dr. Eugene Chan has made his mark in the world of scientific and medical innovation. But that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. In fact, the Massachusetts resident also left his mark in the space. Literally.
In February, Chan saw his company’s blood analyzer he invented being launched on a rocket to the International Space Station.
Here’s Chan’s story, and how this son of Hong Kong immigrants ended up partnering with NASA and running rHEALTH, which produces the blood sensor.
Growing up in New Jersey, Chan went on to earn a degree in biochemical sciences from Harvard College and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He practiced at Mass General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals. But in the course of his work with patients, he came across many people whose blood samples were difficult to obtain for various reasons. He saw the need for an immediate diagnostic blood test that could be used easily at the bedside or outside of hospital settings.
Dr. Chan then entered the world of innovation and entrepreneurship, becoming co-founder, chairman and CEO of several companies, including US Genomics and the DNA Medicine Institute, and founded rHEALTH. Through this experiment, he was able to fulfill his dream of creating a device that would analyze blood samples that could enable early prediction of conditions such as cancer, radiation exposure, or even a medical crisis such as a heart emergency. . His device was later modified for the unique conditions of spaceflight where lack of medical assistance and proximity can complicate responses to medical emergencies.
NASA launched the rHEALTH ONE blood analyzer into space in late February on the commercial resupply mission NG-17. The device was transported to the International Space Station by the NG-17 Cygnus spacecraft.
The device is also slated for a trip to Mars in 2033, where the blood analyzer will protect astronauts in conditions of low or zero gravity and constant radiation exposure. NASA anticipates common use of the device as a diagnostic tool.
Dr Chan was present on the island of Wallops, Virginia, for the February launch of the Northrup Grumman Anares rocket, carrying an NG-18 Cygnus spacecraft.
“It’s a marvel of long collaboration with NASA,” Dr. Chan said. “The device is designed to provide both comprehensive health information for astronauts on their journeys to Mars and self-contained health accessible to everyone on Earth.”
For those of us on Earth, Chan envisions a world in which most households have access to the Analyzer. He also sees the device as useful for those who might be wary of the medical system.
Chan recognizes the sacrifices his father, a chemist, and his mother, a homemaker, made to enable his career and eventual success.
Today, Chan’s innovative team of engineers, scientists and coders have “a unified vision of the daring and the impossible” as they look to the future.
SAMPAN, published by the nonprofit Asian American Civic Association, is New England’s only Chinese-English bilingual newspaper, acting as a bridge between Asian American community organizations and individuals in the Greater Boston area. It is published biweekly and distributed free throughout the Boston subway; it also ships as far as Hawaii.