The Innovator: Meet Nandan Lad


In November, Nandan Lad, MD, PhD, officially assumed the role of Vice Chair for Innovation in the Department of Neurosurgery. In this new position, he will work to help foster and encourage innovation across the department, among faculty, residents, and students. And though his title may be new, he has always been an innovator.

As director of the Duke NeuroInnovations program since 2011, Nandan’s goal is to help guide a systematic approach to medical device and technology development. He believes that innovation is a discipline that can be learned and impresses upon trainees that every idea – a new medical device, delivery system, digital health app ­-- started with an unmet clinical need, and that the impact of an innovation can be huge, with the opportunity to change standard of care for a whole clinical indication or field of medicine.

For example, an idea that Nandan himself has been working on is Neurapheresis Therapy, which removes pathogens from the cerebrospinal fluid, similar to how dialysis removes waste from the blood. This platform could drastically improve upon the standard of care for many different neurological conditions. It’s much harder than anyone will tell you to make an idea like this a reality, he says, but Duke has now enrolled its first patient in a trial for subarachnoid hemorrhage, with plans to expand to treating meningitis and other neuroinflammatory conditions.

He also directs the Duke Neuro-Outcomes program, which helps address key health policy questions and patient-centered outcomes in neurosurgery. And just recently, he received a secondary appointment as associate professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science the Pratt School of Engineering, and was named associate director of Duke Forge, a new center for health data sciences.

Nandan grew up Pasadena, California. His father, a research scientist, was a huge influence on him. Nandan enrolled in the early entrance program at Cal State University, which allows a handful of students annually to begin college at age 13. He graduated magna cum laude at age 17. He went to medical and graduate school at Chicago Medical School, then Stanford for residency and fellowship training. He is married to Nora Lad, MD, PhD, who is an associate professor of ophthalmology at Duke. They have three wonderful boys:  Atlas, 9, and five-year-old twins Leo and Dalton.