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Ellen Roche

Contact Info

room E25-344

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

77 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139


  • 2015

    Harvard University

  • 2011

    Trinity College Dublin

  • 2004

    National University of Ireland, Galway


Research Interests

Research in the Therapeutic Technology Design and Development Lab incorporates soft robotics, unique fabrication methods and computational analysis tools into the device design process to develop novel therapeutic strategies for tissue repair. We design and develop implantable medical devices that augment or assist native function. We borrow principles from nature to design implantable, biomimetic therapeutic devices. Research is broadly categorized into three areas (i) mechanical assist and repair devices, (ii) biomaterial and therapy delivery devices and (iii) enhanced preclinical test model development. Ultimately, the combined aim of our work is to translate enhanced therapeutic devices into the clinical arena. Our lab has strong collaborations with surgeons and interventionalists from local hospitals for constant input into the device design process and to enable accurate development of clinically representative laboratory and pre-clinical test protocols.


Ellen Roche received her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from NUIGalway, Ireland and went on to work in the medical device industry (Mednova, Abbott Vascular and Medtronic) before receiving her MSc in Bioengineering from Trinity College Dublin. She completed her PhD at Harvard University under the guidance of Professor David Mooney in the Mooney Lab and Professor Conor Walsh  in the Harvard Biodesign Lab. To date her research has focused on new approaches to cardiac device design. In industry she worked on embolic carotid filters, drug eluting coronary stents and trans-aortic valve bioprosthesis delivery systems. During her doctoral work she used soft robotic techniques to develop a bioinspired cardiac simulator (Roche et al, Advanced Materials, 2014) and, in collaboration with a team of cardiac surgeons from Boston Children’s Hospital designed an extra-cardiac compression device that can increase cardiac output in a failing heart animal model (Roche et al, Science Translational Medicine, 2017, Horvath et al, ABME, 2017 and Payne et al, Soft Robotics 2017). As well as mechanical device design, she also worked on employing biomaterials to improve cell delivery and retention to the infarcted heart (Roche and Hastings, Biomaterials, 2014Hastings and Roche, Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 2015) and took the engineering lead in a multi-disciplinary collaborative team between Harvard, Boston Children’s hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to design a light-reflecting catheter that can close tissue defects atraumatically (Roche and Fabozzo, Science Translational Medicine, 2015).
As a post-doctoral research fellow at the National University of Ireland Galway under the supervision of Prof. Peter McHugh, Ellen used computational methods (finite element analysis) to analyze drug release kinetics from implantable devices
She directs the Therapeutic Technology Design and Development Lab TTDD at MIT. Since the creation of her lab, she has explored the intersection of mechanical and biological therapy delivery; for examples her group has described ways to modulate immune response using dynamic actuation (Dolan et al, Science Robotics 2019) and pioneered methods for coupling a direct cardiac compression device to the heart using the native biological response (Horvath et al, Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 2019). The group has used computational modeling to characterize the transport of biological therapy from implantable devices into cardiac tissue (Shirazi et al, Advanced Healthcare Materials, 2019) , and the mechanical effect of injecting hydrogels into diseased heart tissue (Fan et al, International Journal of Numerical Methods in Bioengineering, 2019). Recently, the group have described a biorobotic hybrid heart with imaged-based biomicry that combines organic tissue with synthetic soft robotic matrices (Park et al, Science Robotics,2020).

Honors + Awards

  • 2022-2023 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award 2023
  • MIT Future Founders Initiative Prize Competition - Grand Prize 2022
  • Nature Research Inspiring Women in Science Awards, Scientific Achievement Category 2021
  • Thomas McMahon Mentoring Award 2020
  • Associate Scientific Advisor of Science Translational Medicine 2020
  • NSF CAREER Award 2019-2024
  • Charles H. Hood Award for Excellence in Child Health Research 2019-2021
  • NSF EFRI Award 2019-2024
  • Wellcome Trust Seed Award in Science 2016-2017
  • Irish Research Council Post-Doctoral Government of Ireland Fellowship 2016-2017
  • American Heart Association Pre-Doctoral Award 2014-2015
  • Fulbright International Science and Technology Award 2011-2014
  • Pierce Fellowship for Outstanding Graduate Students 2011-2014
  • Judah Folkman Award 2014
  • First Place Award, 3-in-5 Competition, Design of Medical Devices 2013
  • First Place Award, International Student Design Showcase, Design of Medical Devices 2013
  • Overall Winner, Mimics Engineering on Anatomy for Cardiovascular Applications 2013
  • First Place Thesis Award, Trinity College, Dublin 2010
  • First Place Examinations Award, Trinity College, Dublin 2010
  • Technical Excellence Contribution Award, AbbottVascular 2007


American Heart Association

Americal Society of Mechanical Engineers

National Academy of Advancement in Science

Biomedical Engineering Society

Frontiers of Engineering

Professional Service

Reviewer, National Science Foundation

Ad Hoc Reviewer: Nature Medicine, Science Robotics, Soft Robotics, Annals of Biomedical Engineering,

Publication Chair, BioRob 2020

MIT Service

Medical Engineering and Medical Physics Admissions Committee

Health Sciences and Technology Medical Engineering and Medical Physics Academic Advisor

Health Sciences and Technology Integrated Committee for Academic Programs Committee


Fall 2017 - 2.75 Medical Device Design

Fall 2018, Fall 2019- 2.009 Product Design

Spring 2019,2020 - HST.100 Respiratory Pathophysiology



Roche ET. Not “dust” any neural stimulator. Science Translational Medicine  18 Mar 2020:Vol. 12, Issue 535, eabb2775. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abb2775. 

Park C, Fan Y, Hager G, Yuk H, Singh M, Rojas A, Hameed A, Saeed M, Vasilyev NV, Steel TJW, Zhao X, Nguyen CT*, Roche ET*. An organosynthetic dynamic heart model with enhanced biomimicry guided by cardiac diffusion tensor imaging. Science Robotics 5;38;eaay9106. DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aay9106. 


Yuk, H., Varela, C.E., Nabzdyk, C.S. et al. Dry double-sided tape for adhesion of wet tissues and devices. Nature 575, 169–174 (2019).

Dolan EB, Varela CE, Mendez K, Whyte W, Levey RE, Robinson ST, Maye E, O’Dwyer J, Beatty A, Rothman A, Fan Y, Hochstein J, Rothenbucher S, Wylie R, Starr JR, Monaghan M, Dockery P, Duffy GP, Roche ET. An actuatable soft reservoir modulates host foreign body response. Science Robotics 4;33;eaax7043

Cobi A, Gray L , Mittmann E,  Link S,   Hanumara N,  Lyatskaya Y, Roche, ET, Slocum A , Zygmanski P (2019). Design of a Reconfigurable Quality Assurance Phantom for Verifying the Spatial Accuracy of Radiosurgery Treatments for Multiple Brain Metastases. Journal of Medical Devices. 13. 10.1115/1.4044402.

Shirazi RN, Islam S, Weafer FM, Villanyi A, Ronan W, McHugh PE, Roche ET. Multi-scale experimental and computational modeling approaches to characterize therapy delivery to the heart from an implantable epicardial biomaterial reservoir. Advanced Healthcare Materials 8 (16), 1970068

Fan Y, Ronan W, Teh I, Schneider JE, Varela CE, Whyte W, McHugh PE, Leen SB, Roche ET. A comparison of two quasi‐static computational models for assessment of intra‐myocardial injection as a therapeutic strategy for heart failure, International Journal of Numerical Methods in Biomedical Engineering, 25:9:e2313, 2019

Roche, ET, Implanted Device Enables Responsive Bladder Control. Nature News and Views, January 2nd, 2019. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07811-1 

Varela C, Fan Y and Roche ET, Optimizing epicardial restraint and reinforcement following myocardial infarction: Moving towards localized, biomimetic, and multitherapeutic options (2019). Biomimetics, 4;1;7

Weafer FM, Duffy S, Machado IP, Roche ET, McHugh PE, Gilvarry M. Characterization of Strut Indentation during Mechanical Thrombectomy in Acute Ischemic Stroke Clot Analogues (2019). Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery,11;9;891-897

Whyte W*, Roche ET*, Shahrin I, Shirazi RS, Weafer, F, Mendez K, O’Neill HS, Vasilyev NV, McHugh PM, Murphy B, Duffy GP**, Walsh CJ**, and Mooney DJ**, Sustained release of targeted cardiac therapy with a replenishable implanted epicardial reservoir (2019). Nature Biomedical Engineering 2:6:416 *co first-authors ** co senior authors

Horvath MA, Varela CE, Dolan EB, Whyte W, Monahan DS, Payne CJ, Wamala IA, Vasilyev NV, Pigula FA, Mooney DJ, Walsh CJ, Duffy GP, Roche ET. Towards Alternative Approaches for Coupling of a Soft Robotic Sleeve to the Heart. Ann Biomed Eng (2018) 46;10;1534-1547


Wamala I, Roche ET, Pigula FA, The use of soft robotics in cardiovascular therapy, Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy,  15;10, 2017 

Horvath MA, Wamala I, Rytkin E, Doyle E, Payne CJ, Thalhofer T, Berra I, Wamala I, Solovyeva A, Saeed M, Hendren S, Roche ET, Del Nido PJ, Walsh CJ, Vasilyev NV. An Intracardiac Soft Robotic Device for Augmentation of Blood Ejection from the Failing Right Ventricle, Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 1-12, 2017. 

Payne CJ. Wamala I, Abah C, Thalhofer T, Saeed M, Bautista-Salinas D, Horvath MA, Vasilyev NV, Roche ET, Pigula FA, Walsh CJ. Soft robotic ventricular assist device with septal bracing for therapy of heart failure. Soft Robotics 4;3;241-250. 


Roche ET, Horvath MA, Wamala I, Alazmani A,  Song SE, Whyte W, Machaidze Z, Vasilyev NV, Mooney DJ, Pigula FA, and Walsh CJ. Soft Robotic Sleeve Restores Heart Function. Science Translational Medicine, 9 (373), eaaf3925. 


O’Neill HS,  Gallagher LB, O’Sullivan J, Whyte W, Curley C,  Dolan E, Hameed A, O’Dwyer J, Payne C, O’Reilly D,  Ruiz-Hernandez E, Roche ET, F. J. O’Brien, S. A. Cryan, H. Kelly, B. Murphy, and G. P. Duffy. Biomaterial-Enhanced Cell and Drug Delivery: Lessons Learned in the Cardiac Field and Future Perspectives. Advanced Materials 28 (27), 5648-5661. 

Cezar CA, Roche ET, Vandenburgh HH, G. N. Duda, Walsh CJ, and Mooney DJ. Biologic-free mechanically induced muscle regeneration. PNAS 113 (6), 1534-1539  DOI10.1073/pnas.1517517113. 


Roche ET, Fabozzo A, Lee Y, Polygerinos P, Friehs I, Schuster L, Casar Berazaluce AM, Cearbhaill ED, Vasilyev NV, Mooney DJ, Karp JM, del Nido, PJ, Walsh CJ. A light reflecting balloon for atraumatic tissue defect closure. Science Translational Medicine (Front cover) 2015: 7(306):149, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa2406 


Hastings CL, Roche ET, Ruiz-Hernandez E, Schenke-Layland K, Walsh CJ, Duffy GP. Drug and cell delivery for cardiac regeneration. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 2014 DOI:10.1016/j.addr.2014.08.006 

Roche ET, Hastings CL, Lewin SA, Shvartsman DE, Brudno Y, Vasilyev NV, O’Brien FJ, Walsh CJ, Duffy GP, Mooney DJ. Comparison of biomaterial delivery vehicles for improving acute retention of stem cells in the infarcted heart. Biomaterials 2014. 35(25):6850-8. DOI 0.1016/j.biomaterials.2014.04.114. 

Roche ET, Wohlfarth R, Overvelde JTB, Vasilyev NV, Pigula FA, Mooney DJ, Bertoldi K, Walsh CJ. A Bioinspired Soft Actuated Material. Advanced Materials (Front Cover) 2014. 26,1200-1206. DOI: 10.1002/adma.201304018. 

Isakov A, Murdaugh K, Burke WC, Zimmerman S, Roche ET, Holland D, Einarsson JI, Walsh CJ. A New Laparoscopic Morcellation Using an Actuated Wire Mesh and Bag. Journal of medical devices 2014:8:011009-5.


Frech AJ, Orozco D, Davoudi K, Ding C, Field R, Yasin R, Roche ET, Holland D and Walsh CJ. Laparoscopic Device for Direct and Indirect Suction. J. Med. Devices 2013:7(3),P030920 

Wan Q, Schoppe O, Gunasekaran S, Holland D, Roche ET, Hur H-C, Walsh CJ. Multifunctional laparoscopic trocar with built-in fascial closure and stabilisation. J. Med. Devices 7(3), 030912 (Jul 03, 2013)


O’Flynn P, Roche ET, Pandit A. Generating an ex vivo vascular model. ASAIO 2005; 51(4):426-33 



"Biomimetic actuation device and system, and methods for controlling a biomimetic actuation device and system", Patent No. US10058647B2
"Catheter Device for Transmitting and Reflecting Light " US Patent No. 10,588,695
"Perfusion dilation catheter system and methods of use", US Patent No. US9480823B2

US Patent 7591198 (grant) Apparatus and System for measuring of particles generated from medical devices or instruments utilized during simulated clinical applications, Issued September 22nd 2009

US Patent 7591199 (grant) Method for measuring of particles generated from medical devices or instruments utilized during simulated clinical applications, Issued September 22nd 2009

US Patent Application 2008073817 Forming Pre- Made pieces of PVA into specific models,Issued March 27, 2008 

US Patent Application 2008076101 Forming Vascular Diseases within Anatomical Models,Issued March 27, 2008

US Patent Application 2008073022 Multi-Piece PVA models with non-brittle connections,Issued Mar 27, 2008

US Patent Application 2007110280 Methods for Determining Coating Thickness of a Prosthesis, Issued May 17, 2007