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Acera Announces Major Research and Education Partnership

By May 15, 2018March 29th, 2023No Comments
One Brave Idea, an innovative research project funded by Verily, the American Heart Association and Astra Zeneca, partners with the Acera School, connecting education with real-life science and technology.
Students sample and sequence their own skin microbiome, hack wearables, invent and build apps, and discuss what it means to be healthy — or sick.


About the Acera OBI Partnership

In a visionary new partnership, One Brave Idea and the Acera School have set out to break ground on our understanding of health and wellness in children and adolescents, and on how children can become active contributors to research, education and community engagement on cardiovascular health.

By bringing together innovators in the fields of medical sciences and education, the OBI-Acera Partnership connects 21st Century research with 21st Century learning, paving the way for truly novel ideas, products, knowledge and change-agents to emerge.

Together with OBI, we will be developing a roadmap for investigating contributors to CV health in children and adolescents in school settings (such as sleep, nutrition, stress & anxiety, microbiome.) We will create curricula that deeply connect to this research and allow teachers in diverse educational environments to engage students in learning about CV health in hands-on, student-driven ways. And we will involve students in the innovation process, recognizing their potential as agents and creators of new approaches and devices that speak to peers their age.

Hear OBI Principal Investigator Calum MacRae, MD, PhD, explain why he and his team are interested in collaborating with Acera.


About OBI

Led by Dr. Calum MacRae, chief of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a long-time Acera curriculum collaborator, the One Brave Idea team is comprised of leading scientists from multiple disciplines working together to understand the earliest stages of coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the primary force behind the No. 1 killer in the world, claiming more than 7 million lives each year.

Over the past several decades, we have learned a lot – but it’s not enough. Research has become too incremental, conducted by teams that were too narrow and lacking the powerhouse funding to bring together the best and brightest minds. The American Heart Association, Verily and AstraZeneca have combined forces to fight this epidemic. Through a $75 million investment in a diverse team of scientists, together with the latest technologies and scientific advances, we have set out to find the weapons and strategies to win the fight against coronary heart disease.


To get started, we have identified thematic areas of interest to CV research, and approaches to investigating these in elementary and middle school settings.

Microbiome.  Acera scientist-in-residence and teacher Michael Hirsch developed a curriculum approach that enables Middle School students to successfully sequence and study their own skin microbiome (and what it can tell us about CV health) in the lab, and make their findings reproducible and informative for research. The goal is to engage students in authentic learning on cutting-edge science in hands-on ways, empowering them to develop a new sense of ownership in their own health, and explore how microbiome researchers can collaborate with schools on such curricula as well as enroll students in broader studies.

Wearables. In the SEEDS StudioLab, Acera design teacher Alisha Panjwani works with middle school students who hack and modify existing wearables, or design and prototype new devices that measure one or more metrics for wellness in youth. The student’s concepts and solutions contribute to the development of new ways to track biomarkers and inform our understanding of CV disease prevention, starting in childhood.

Wellness and Cardiovascular Health. How can we capture and codify health data that already exists in schools (such as absences, illnesses)? What are measures of wellness that schools could consistently track in their student population — such as emotional health questionnaires, activity logs, or heart rates during tests — to contribute to our knowledge base, while also increasing students’ sense of ownership over their own well being and health? By partnering with OBI, we are developing news ways to create health dashboards for schools.

Approaches to Consent & Community Engagement. To define and test successful approaches to consent in school communities for research that involves children, we collaborate with leading universities such as MIT and Boston University on designing study protocols that allow schools to set up or collaborate in studies in safe, ethical and professional ways. In this process, we hope to learn how we can involve whole families in learning and research about wellness.

Curriculum Roll-out & STEM Education Advocacy. After curriculum pilots at Acera, we aim to create curricula that will enable other schools to teach, innovate and inform research in similar ways.