Awards & Recognition: November 2018

Honors received by HMS faculty staff and students

Six Harvard Medical School researchers in the Blavatnik Institute and at affiliated hospitals were among 416 individuals to be elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), recognizing their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.

Being elected a AAAS Fellow is an honor given to AAAS members by their peers. The new Fellows from HMS are:

Jonathan Cohen, the Bullard Professor of Neurobiology at HMS, was elected to the neuroscience section for contributions to our understanding of cholinergic and GABAergic receptors’ structure and function.

Stephen Elledge, the HMS Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was elected to the medical sciences section for significant discoveries in the area of genetics, including the processes of cell self-repair and the function of “watchdog” protein-enzymes.

David Ginty, the Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology at HMS, was elected to the neuroscience section for distinguished contributions to molecular and cellular neuroscience, particularly the development and function of the neural circuits underlying the perception of touch and pain.

George King, HMS professor of medicine at Joslin Diabetes Center, was elected to the biological studies section for elucidating a role of protein kinase C activation in the development of vascular disease in diabetes, which suggests targets for intervention.

Judy Lieberman, HMS professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, was elected to the biological studies section for studies of molecular pathways activated by granzymes, proteases released by cytotoxic T lymphocytes that induce programmed cell death; also for targeted RNAi therapeutics.

Sharon-Lise Normand, the S. James Adelstein Professor of Health Care Policy at HMS, was elected to the statistics section for distinguished contributions to statistical methodology for profiling health care providers and evidence synthesis, and for impactful collaborations and leadership in cardiovascular disease and health policy.

New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin in February at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Adapted from a AAAS news release.

Carmelo Nucera
Carmelo Nucera

Carmelo Nucera, HMS assistant professor of pathology and a faculty member of the Cancer Research Institute of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, received the 2018 Van Meter Award from the American Thyroid Association and delivered a lecture titled The role of a new thyroid-specific long non-coding RNA (lincRNA) in drug resistance and iodine metabolism in BRAFV600E thyroid cancer” at the organization’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in October.

Nucera, who is also an associate member at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and a faculty member at the Center for Vascular Biology Research at Beth Israel Deaconess, is primarily engaged in translational thyroid cancer research. He currently focuses on biomarker discovery such as regulatory long intergenic non-coding RNAs (LincRNA) and murine preclinical and co-clinical trials for targeted therapies for super-precision medicine. He is actively developing an independent research program focused on a preclinical/translational model of patient-derived thyroid cancers and the role of the BRAFV600E gene mutation in metastatic thyroid cancer. Nucera also teaches and tutors medical students, post-docs, PhD students and college students. 

The Van Meter Award recognizes outstanding contributions to research on the thyroid gland or related subjects by an investigator who is age 45 or under.

David Sinclair
David Sinclair

David Sinclair, professor of genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at HMS, was named to receive the 2018 Irving S. Wright Award of Distinction by the American Federation for Aging Research for his contributions investigating age-related processes and the development of drugs to treat diseases of aging.

Sinclair will receive the award and present a lecture at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in Boston in November. His lecture "Understanding Why We Grow Old As We Grow Older" will highlight the latest research breakthroughs regarding the pathways that control the pace of age-related changes, along with updates on human clinical trials and predictions about where the field of aging research is going from here.

joan reede
Joan Reede

Joan Reede, dean for diversity and community partnership at HMS was honored as a 2018 Hero in Health Care at the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston annual gala on Nov. 10. Agios and Thomas Croswell of Tufts Health Plan also received Hero awards. The three recipients were celebrated for making a profound difference in their respective industries and communities

Two HMS researchers received NCI Outstanding Investigator Awards, which supports accomplished leaders in cancer research who are providing significant contributions toward understanding cancer and developing applications that may lead to a breakthrough in biomedical, behavioral or clinical cancer research. The two most recent NCI Outstanding Investigator Award recipients from HMS are:

Xandra Breakefield
Xandra Breakefield

Xandra Breakefield, HMS professor of neurology and a geneticist in radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, involves glioblastoma, which releases extracellular vesicles containing nucleic acids and proteins that convert normal brain cells to tumor supportive cells. Breakefield will explore how tumor extracellular vesicles participate in changing the phenotype of microglia, macrophages and astrocytes in the tumor microenvirons and analyze the microenvironment which sustains the tumor. This research is designed to increase sensitivity and reveal clinical correlates of RNA and protein in extracellular vesicle biomarkers from serum/plasma with the goals of early detection, informing therapeutic decisions and longitudinal evaluation.

Pasi Janne
Pasi Jänne

Pasi Jänne, HMS professor of medicine, director of the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology and director of the Belfer Center for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will focus his research on genotype directed precision therapies to combat EGFR mutant or ALK rearranged non- small cell lung cancer, which show favorable response rates and progression free survival compared to chemotherapy. Significant improvements in treatment using precision therapies involve using combination therapies. Jänne will develop combination therapies using dual targeting of EGFR, vertical pathway inhibition and parallel pathway inhibition. He will focus on improving therapies for EGFR inhibitor naïve cancers. The research will inform preclinical approaches to refine treatments and make improvements in the outcome of EGFR mutant and other lung cancer patients.

Gu, Kirschner, Weinstock
From left: Chenghua Gu, Mark Kirschner and David Weinstock


Chenghua Gu, professor of neurobiology at HMS, and Marc Kirschner, the John Franklin Enders University Professor of Systems Biology at HMS, and David Weinstock, HMS associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, have been named 2018 Allen Distinguished Investigators by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group. They will each receive $1.5 million in research support over three years. Weinstock will share his award with biological engineer Scott Manalis of MIT.

Gu, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, receives the award in recognition of her pioneering work studying the brain vasculature in relation to neuroimmunology, an emerging field that explores the intersection of the nervous and immune systems. 

Kirschner, the John Franklin Enders University Professor of Systems Biology and founding head of the Harvard Medical School Department of Systems Biology, is being recognized for his mold-breaking approaches to studying how cells divide, live and die.
Weinstock, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and attending physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, studies the molecular origins of cancer and how cells repair their damaged DNA. Weinstock and collaborator, Manilis, are receiving the award for their work into the mechanisms that fuel drug-resistance and propel recurrence in a class of cancers known as lymphomas, which affect various white blood cells.