Awards & Recognitions: November 2020

Honors received by HMS faculty, staff and students

Sharon Inouye, HMS professor of medicine and director of the Aging Brain Center at Hebrew SeniorLife, is among 20 individuals named as Next Avenue’s 2020 Influencers in Aging.

Additionally, Inouye was one of five influencers selected for a new subgroup of influencers on this year’s list specifically chosen for their contributions to advance the safety and wellness of older Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inouye is being recognized for becoming one of the nation’s leading experts during the pandemic on the need to include older adults in COVID-19 vaccine trials. She is an internationally recognized leader in aging and geriatric medicine. Her work focuses on delirium in hospitalized older patients. 

Three HMS researchers received awards in the inaugural round of Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards, which are sponsored by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and seven global collaborators as part of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, a multiyear, multimillion-dollar international competition seeking breakthrough innovations to extend human health and function later in life.

The following five projects with HMS researchers were among 21 submissions to receive Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards from NAM:

Retinal Imaging for Diagnosis of Aging-Related Brain Disorders 
Alessandro Biffi, HMS assistant professor of neurology and a neurologist at Mass General, with Michael Morley, HMS assistant professor of ophthalmology, part-time, at Mass Eye and Ear, and Elena Biffi of New England College of Optometry

Paradigm Shift in the Molecular Transport to Brain Through the Direct Central Nerve-Innervation Based Retrograde Axonal Transport of Craniofacial Tissue Exosomes
Shigemi Ishikawa-Nagai, HSDM associate professor of oral medicine, infection, and immunity and director of clinical research, with John Da Silva, HSDM associate professor of restorative dentistry and biomaterials science, Alberta Galaburda, the Emily Fisher Landau Professor of Neurology at HMS and Beth Israel Deaconess, and Masazumi Nagai, HSDM lecturer on oral medicine, infection and immunity, part-time

Investigating the Role of Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase in the Aging-Associated Changes in Gut Barrier and Microbiome Using a Novel Microfluidic Intestine-on-Chip Model 
Vidisha Mohad, HMS research fellow in surgery at Mass General, with Richard Hodin, HMS professor of surgery at Mass General, and Nima Saedi, HMS assistant professor of surgery at Mass General

Deep learning to predict biological age and longevity from chest radiographs 
Vineet Raghu, HMS research fellow in radiology at Mass General, with Michael Lu, HMS assistant professor of radiology at Mass General, and Jakob Weiss of Dana-Farber

Genetic Regulation of Exceptional Longevity in Rockfishes 
Stephen Treaster, HMA research fellow in genetics at Boston Children's

Samira Asgari, HMS research fellow in medicine at Brigham and Women’s, received the 2020 Inspiring and Innovating Science Award in Scientific Achievement from the Estée Lauder Companies and Nature Research. The award celebrates and supports the achievements of women in science and of those who work to encourage girls and young women to engage with STEM subjects and who work to support women to stay in STEM careers around the world.

Asgari is a computational biologist whose research strives to understand how human history shapes global genetic diversity and how this genetic diversity translates to phenotypic diversity. Her work focuses on statistical and population genetics to investigate how admixture information can be leveraged to learn about a populations’ history and to identify new genotype-phenotype relationships.

George Velmahos, the John Frances Burke Professor of Surgery at Mass General, received the 2020 Argo Humanitarian Award. The Argo awards are presented to eight Greek women and men who have successfully pursued careers abroad.

JoAnn Manson, the Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women’s Health and chief of preventative medicine at Brigham and Women’s, was named to receive the American Heart Association 2020 Research Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding lifetime contributions to cardiovascular research and/or teaching.

Manson's research focuses on women’s cardiovascular health, with primary her interests including randomized clinical prevention trials of vitamin D, omega-3s and other nutritional and lifestyle factors related to heart disease and diabetes; the role of estrogens as determinants of chronic disease; prevention of cardiovascular disease in women; and population health promotion. Her more than 30-year scientific career includes expertise as a cardiovascular epidemiologist, a population health leader and a principal investigator of numerous cardiovascular clinical research studies.

Three HMS faculty members were recognized by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) for outstanding contributions to the organization and the field of rheumatology. They are:

Michael Brenner, the Elizabeth Fay Brigham Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s, was named a Master of the ACR. This designation recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology through scholarly achievement and/or service to their patients, students and the rheumatology profession.

Daniel H. Solomon, HMS professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, was named to receive the Excellence in Investigative Mentoring Award, which recognizes the importance of the mentor/mentee relationship and honors an active ACR or ARHP member for their contributions to the rheumatology profession through outstanding and ongoing mentoring.

Stefanie Wade, HMS clinical fellow in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess, and Chio Yokose, HMS instructor in medicine at Mass General, were named Distinguished Fellows. The award recognizes clinical and research fellows who are in a rheumatology fellowship training program and have performed meritoriously. 

Fifteen HMS researchers are co-principal investigators on 10 teams to receive supplemental grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to expand the Human Cell Atlas, a global effort to map every cell in the human body.

CZI supports 38 collaborative teams, involving more than 200 research labs, to generate data and tools and develop methods to advance the HCA through the Seed Networks for the Human Cell Atlas. These groups bring together scientists, computational biologists, software engineers and physicians to help accelerate progress toward a first version.

One of the Seed Networks’ goals is to help ensure that the first draft of the HCA is representative of the global population to increase its impact and utility for the global scientific community. True representation of human genetic ancestral diversity results in a broader application of the HCA to diseases that impact everyone, ultimately helping to build a more equitable and inclusive future for the field of single-cell biology and beyond.

Projects led by co-principal investigators in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS and at the Schools’ affiliated hospitals awarded grants from the CZI Seed Networks Incentive to Support Diversity for the Human Cell Atlas are:

  • A spatial and lineage atlas of bone marrow hematopoiesis

Co-led by Sahand Hormoz, HMS assistant professor of systems biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Allon Klein, HMS associate professor of systems biology, Debora Marks, HMS associate professor of systems biology, Ann Mullally, HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Chris Sander, HMS professor in residence of cell biology at Dana-Farber, and Peng Yin, HMS professor of systems biology, this project aims to build the hematopoietic human cell atlas, focusing on blood production, with single-cell transcriptomics, multiplexed spatial imaging data and a pilot lineage-tracing map in vitro. The resulting datasets will be presented via a portal for exploration and data analysis in the context of the wider HCA. 

To construct a more representative atlas, this group will include bone marrow samples from donors of African descent. Understanding bone marrow is important because most of our blood cells derive from stem cells that reside in the marrow, and its regulation is important for maintaining balance and composition in the immune system. Blood count ranges are routinely used to diagnose disease and have historically been developed by sampling mostly individuals of European descent. As individuals of African descent exhibit significantly different blood counts, building more representative blood count ranges could help improve outcomes for diseases such as early-stage breast cancer in African American women.

  • Benchmarking developing and adult kidney with organoids at single cell resolution

Co-led by Steven Chang, HMS assistant professor of surgery at Brigham and Women’s, and Sushrut Waikar, HMS lecturer on medicine, part-time, at Brigham and Women’s, this network will build a single-cell atlas of a healthy developing and adult human kidney across ages and sex and benchmark these data against cell types in human kidney organoids, or 3D cell cultures that mimic human organs. 

This group will also pilot a patient engagement strategy to include samples from African American donors in the kidney atlas and to recruit people from understudied racial and ethnic populations for future translational research. Additionally, they will hire a clinical coordinator whose racial and ethnic background reflects the population served by Boston University Medical Center. This coordinator will partner community members with health care centers, policymakers and researchers, as well as provide guidance on best practices for patient engagement, retention and the establishment of a patient advisory board. 

  • A spatial cell type reference atlas of the adult human heart

Co-led by Jonathan Seidman, the HMS Henrietta B. and Frederick H. Bugher Foundation Professor of Genetics, and Christine Seidman, the HMS Thomas W. Smith Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s, the goal of this project is to build a spatially resolved single-cell reference map of the adult human heart. 

In addition, this group will work to understand differences in cell type composition or distribution that may underlie cardiovascular disease. Race and ethnicity contribute to differences in the incidence, treatment and outcomes of cardiovascular disease. In addition to recognized socioeconomic factors, genetic determinants are known to contribute to cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular pathologies—but how do these risk factors manifest in the identity or composition of various cell types in the heart? The project will incorporate samples from Black and Latinx donors and include collaborators in Canada and Brazil for obtaining these heart tissues.

  • Inferring cell interactions: Spatial organization of human lymph nodes

Co-led by Peter Kharchenko, the HMS Gilbert S. Omenn, MD ’65, PhD Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Jeffrey Moffitt, HMS assistant professor of microbiology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Catherine Wu, HMS professor of medicine at Dana-Farber, this project aims to combine spatially-resolved and single-cell transcriptional profiling to develop a systematic method for inferring cell-cell interactions and to apply that method to create a high-resolution spatial atlas of healthy human lymph nodes. To help ensure an ethnically representative population of healthy individuals, this group will partner with the CZI Seed Network at Columbia Medical School to leverage an existing relationship with LivOnNY and procure and analyze additional lymph node samples from Black, Latinx and Asian donors. 

  • Human vascular endothelial cell atlas in the young and old

Co-led by Guo-Cheng Yuan, HMS associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s, this network is contributing to an endothelial cell atlas in space and time by mapping the transcriptomes of endothelial cells from several tissues from donors of different ages and developing cutting-edge computational tools. To expand the racial diversity of this atlas, the project will include samples from Black and Latinx donors, which will help clarify how cardiovascular disease manifests differently among various populations. 

  • Human lung cell atlas 1.0

Co-led by Jayaraj Rajagopal, HMS professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, this network will create the first version of the Human Lung Cell Atlas by developing and extending computational methods to allow the integration of single cell and spatial transcriptomics, microscopy and other data types. 

Creating a lung atlas that will be broadly useful as a reference for understanding diseases such as asthma will require integrating samples from varying ages and ethnicities. This project will build upon the existing collection of pediatric airway and lung samples to include additional Black and Asian pediatric samples from across five age groups and multiple locations in the lung.

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