Awards & Recognitions: October 2019

Honors received by HMS faculty, staff and students

Deborah Levy, HMS associate professor of psychology at McLean Hospital, will be presented with the 2019 Valiant Researcher award on Nov. 4, by the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America. The award recognizes an individual who has designed and implemented studies to enhance the diagnoses or care of those affected with a neuropsychiatric illness.

Levy is being honored for her work demonstrating that treatment can be targeted in individuals experiencing psychosis who have a specific structural gene mutation.

Bertha Madras, HMS professor of psychobiology at McLean Hospital, received the Innovator Award in June from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), which honors individuals who have developed innovative approaches in basic science, clinical research, or treatment and prevention science that reflect potential for significant impact in the drug dependence field.

Madras’ research focuses on neurobiology, imaging and medications development for neuropsychiatric disorders. CPDD recognized her for the discovery of a class of compounds called phenyltropanes, which are used for brain PET and SPECT imaging of dopamine neurons.

Michael Greenberg, the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, was named with Catherine Dulac, the Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, to receive the Society for Neuroscience’s Ralph W. Gerard Prize, which honors outstanding scientists who have made significant contributions to neuroscience throughout their careers. Catherine Dulac, the Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, also received the award. The pair were presented with the award at the society’s annual meeting.

Greenberg, who is also chair of the department of neurobiology at HMS, discovered that gene transcription is activated in response to extracellular stimuli, revealing how experience controls the development and function of synapses in the brain. Greenberg’s insight uncovered the mechanism for synaptic plasticity at the cellular and molecular level and resulted in an entire field of study dedicated to elucidating this activity-dependent gene transcription. His work has reached beyond neuroscience, defining what is now a central tenet of cell biology: extracellular stimuli send signals across the membrane to activate immediate early genes such as Fos, leading to the expression of genes that govern a cell’s phenotype and functional state. His work has also elucidated how disruptions to these signaling pathways contribute to various diseases and set a path towards treatments. In addition to his paradigm-shifting work, Greenberg has trained dozens of neuroscientists that now hold leadership positions in academic and industrial settings around the world.

Nine HMS physicians and scientists are among 90 regular members and 10 international members elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Recognizing individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service, election to NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Listed below are the new NAM regular members from HMS and their election citations:

Elizabeth Engle, HMS professor of neurology and of ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital

For seminal research that has defined a new category of developmental brain disorder of the human central nervous system, especially the brain stem and cranial nerves, manifesting as congenital ocular or facial dysmotility, and often accompanied by motor and cognitive dysfunction as well as non-neurological birth defects. Engle is an investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; senior associate in neurology, ophthalmology and genetics at Boston Children's; and an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Tejal Kanti Gandhi, HMS associate professor of medicine, part-time, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

For leadership in the fields of patient safety and quality, as well as wide-ranging influence in the field through thought leadership, research and educational efforts. Gandhi is chief clinical and safety officer at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. 

Daphne Haas-Kogan, HMS professor of radiation oncology and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital.

For research on the study of genetic abnormalities of brain tumors and successfully translating laboratory discoveries to the treatment of cancer, which led to a multitude of successful clinical trials that have helped shape targeted therapies for adult and pediatric malignancies.

Scott Rauch, HMS professor of psychiatry and head of the Department of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital.

For elucidating the neurocircuitry of anxiety disorders including PTSD and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which has been instrumental in the development of novel treatments. Rauch is president, psychiatrist-in-chief and the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Endowed Chair of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital. 

Peter Slavin,  professor of health care policy in the Department of Health Care Policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

For being an influential voice for academic medical centers in the changing health care landscape, and for his focus on systems innovations to improve quality and value, and the inclusion of community health and diversity, as inextricable components of the academic mission. Slavin is president of Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Benjamin Sommers, HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

For his health policy expertise on Medicaid and the health care safety net, as well as for research and policy advocacy that have influenced the implementation and debate on the future of the Affordable Care Act.  Sommers is professor of health policy and economics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public.

Beth Stevens, HMS associate professor of neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital

For redefining our understanding of how the wiring in the brain occurs in early life and shedding new light on how the nervous and immune systems interact in the brain, in health and disease. Stevens is an investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and an institute member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Mehmet Toner, the HMS Helen Andrus Benedict Professor of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital

For creating microfluidic devices with “real life” clinical applications in cancer diagnosis, prenatal diagnosis, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Toner is founding co-director of the Institute for Bioengineering and Biotechnology and director of the BioMEMS Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Catherine Wu, HMS professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

For pioneering the design and implementation of personalized genomics-guided cancer immunotherapy that focused on vaccination strategies to address the challenges of cancer heterogeneity and evolution. Wu is chief of the Division of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapies, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

Rudolph Tanzi, the HMS Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Child Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, received the Brain Research Foundation’s 2019 Dr. Frederic A. Gibbs Discovery Award for Scientific Achievement, which recognizes individuals who advance innovative research in neuroscience at the foundation’s 2019 Discovery Dinner in Chicago on Oct. 10.

Tanzi has spent his career focused on research related to identifying the genetic cause of Alzheimer's disease. His doctoral thesis was on the discovery and isolation of the first Alzheimer's gene—the amyloid precursor protein (APP)—and was published in Science. He was part of the team that discovered the other two early-onset familial Alzheimer genes known as the presenilins 1 and 2.

Thomas Michel, HMS professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, was named jointly with Vsevolod Belousov, of Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, to receive the 2019 Discovery Award from the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM). Michel and Belousov are being recognized jointly for their innovative development of chemogenetic approaches to investigate redox biology in vitro and in vivo.

Michel and Belousov will give a featured lecture at SfRBM's 26th Annual Conference on November 22 titled "Chemogenetic Approaches to Redox Biology​​​​​​." They will be presented with a medal, cash award and an invitation to publish a review article in FRBM. 

Sichen Shao, assistant professor of cell biology in the HMS Blavatnik Institute, was one of 22 early-career scientists and engineers name by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation as a recipient of the 2019 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering.

Maintaining protein homeostasis is essential for cell viability, fate, and function. Shao’s lab aims to understand the molecular mechanisms that detect and handle problems at different steps of protein biosynthesis by biochemically rebuilding cellular pathways for mechanistic and structural dissection.

Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, HMS professor of medicine, emerita, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was chosen to receive the Roy O. Greep Award for Outstanding Research, one of the Endocrine Society’s 2020 Laureate Awards. This annual award recognizes meritorious contributions to research in endocrinology.

Maratos-Flier is also director of translational medicine at Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research. Her research on energy balance defined the role of two “new” hormones in the development of metabolic syndrome. Her work is being translated and applied to help solve the obesity problem and its complications, including type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Joseph Martin, the Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology, Emeritus, at Harvard Medical School, and dean of HMS from 1997 to 2007, is among six Canadian medical scientists named for induction to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for his ability to promote collaboration in building and expanding the institutional foundations of medical education and science in North America.

William G. Kaelin Jr., the Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and senior physician in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is one of three winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Monday morning. 

Kaelin shares the award with Peter J. Ratcliffe of the University of Oxford and the Francis Crick Institute, and Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who were cited for the discovery of the pathway by which cells from humans and most animals sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability, a process which is essential for survival.

Kaelin’s research explores why mutations in genes known as tumor suppressors can lead to cancer. His study of a tumor-suppressor gene called VHL provided key insights into the body’s response to changes in oxygen levels. He discovered that VHL helps control the levels of a protein known as HIF, which ratchets up or down the response to low oxygen, such as the production of red blood cells and new blood vessels. His subsequent discovery of a molecular switch that renders HIF oxygen-sensitive was critical to the understanding of how cells react to variations in oxygen level.

Lauren Orefice, assistant professor of genetics in the HMS Blavatnik Institute and at Massachusetts General Hospital, has won the Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology, which is awarded to one young scientist for the most outstanding neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology conducted by them during the past three years.

Orefice won for her work on the causes and potential therapies for autism spectrum disorders. She found that peripheral sensory neurons—neurons outside the brain—are key areas where autism-associated gene mutations have a critical impact. She showed how abnormal function of peripheral sensory neurons causes touch over-reactivity and demonstrated how this over-reactivity during development contributes to altered brain function and some autism-related behaviors in mice. Orefice’s work changes how we think about the causes of autism spectrum disorders and highlights peripheral sensory neurons as a possible novel therapeutic target

Fourteen Harvard Medical School researchers have received NIH Director’s Awards from the National Institutes of Health Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which is part of the NIH Common Fund, which supports high-risk ideas with potential for great impact in biomedical research from across the broad scope of the NIH.

The awards and winners from HMS are:

NIH Director’s Pioneer Award

Mark Andermann, HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Project Title: Look Inward: Brainstem and Cortical Circuits for Boosting Interoceptive Attention

Andermann’s lab seeks to understand how the needs of the body bias learning, attention and imagery towards need-relevant objects, and how our attention shifts from these external stimuli towards internal body signals. To achieve these goals, the lab employs cellular and subcellular imaging methods to track the activity of specific brain cells in retina, thalamus, cortex, amygdala, hypothalamus and brainstem across weeks as mice seek food, water, mates or safety. A better understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which the brain and body communicate is of broad relevance to psychiatry, neurology, and medicine.

Sun Hurassociate professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology and HMS associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital

Project Title: Resolving Functional Aggregates: A New Perspective on Innate Immune Control
Hur is interested in biochemical and structural mechanisms of protein-nucleic acid interactions in the immune system. These include innate immune receptors that recognize foreign nucleic acids, and transcription factors that play important roles in T cell development.

Hidde Ploegh, HMS member of the faculty of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital

Project Title: Imposing Order on the Family of Ubiquitin-Conjugating (E2) Enzymes Through Intracellular Perturbation with Nanobodies

Ploegh’s research focus is the biochemistry of immune recognition, in particular mechanisms by which pathogens and tumors avoid detection by the immune system. He is known for his analysis of the pathways involved in antigen processing and presentation by products of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC); for studies of glycoprotein synthesis, turnover, trafficking and quality-control mechanisms; and for pioneering the use of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) transgenic mice to examine the properties of human MHC products as restriction elements. He has applied peptide chemistry to develop probes to study the activity of the proteasome and ubiquitin-specific proteases, and has utilized bacterial sortases for novel protein engineering applications. He has employed these technologies in the generation of improved cytokines, and most recently, in conjunction with the isolation of camelid-derived single-domain antibodies, in the creation of improved tools for cytofluorimetry and non-invasive visualization of anti-tumor and anti-virus immune responses using positron emission tomography.

New Innovator Award

Jason Buenrostro, assistant professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard

Project Title: Single-Cell Epigenomic and Cellular Plasticity

The Buenrostro lab is broadly dedicated to advancing our knowledge of gene regulation and the downstream consequences on cell fate decisions. To do this, the Buenrostro lab develops new technologies employing approaches across molecular biology, microscopy and bioinformatics. The lab applies these tools to study stem cells in normal, aging and cancer tissues in effort to discover regulators of chromatin structure and their contribution to disease.

Brian Edlow, HMS assistant professor of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital

Project Title: A Connectome-Based Clinical Trial Platform to Promote Early Recovery of Consciousness After Traumatic Coma

Edlow’s lab at the Mass General Center for Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery is developing tools to detect, predict, and promote recovery of consciousness in patients with severe traumatic brain injury.

Rajat Gupta, HMS instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Project Title: A Genetic Approach to Identify the Common Mechanisms of Vascular Disease

Gupta’s research is focused on identifying new treatments for vascular disease using human genetics to discover the causal biologic pathways.

Ryuji Morizane, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

Project Title: Recreating Kidney Organogenesis In Vitro with Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Ryuji has pioneered research in stem cell differentiation and kidney organoids. He directs research groups focused on kidney regenerative medicine, genome editing in stem cells, and kidney disease modeling with kidney organoids.

Seth Rakoff-Nahoum, HMS assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital

Project Title: Positive Selection as a Host Mechanism to Control the Microbiome

Rakoff-Nahoum’s lab is interested in how each member of microbiomes interacts with the environment, each other, and the host and uses genetic, molecular, cellular and computational approaches combined with ecological and evolutionary theory to address these questions.

Sichen Shao, HMS assistant professor of cell biology in the HMS Blavatnik Institute

Project Title: Decoding Ribosome-Triggered Quality Control Mechanisms

Shao’s lab develops methodologies to biochemically reconstitute cellular quality control pathways for functional and structural dissection.

Alexandra-Chloé Villani, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

Project Title: Deciphering the Achilles Heel of Cancer Immunotherapy

The Villani Lab aims at achieving a higher resolution definition and functional characterization of cell subsets and rules governing human immune response regulation as a foundation for deciphering how immunity is dysregulated in diseases and for developing a comprehensive human immune lexicon that is key to promoting effective bench-to-beside translation of findings.

Courtney Yuen, HMS instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Project Title: New Approaches to Optimizing the Application and Measuring the Impact of Community-Based Tuberculosis Interventions

Yuen’s work focuses on improving the detection and prevention of tuberculosis and evaluating the impact of interventions in this area. She has collaborated with government and non-government programs in Kenya, Peru, Pakistan and the U.S.

Transformative Research Award

Vadim Gladyshev, HMS professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Project Title: Unbiased Identification of Interventions that Extend Lifespan

Gladyshev seeks to define principles of lifespan control and use this information to develop interventions that extend lifespan.

Early Independence Award

Michael Mina, HMS clinical fellow in pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Project Title: Deconvolution and Reconstruction of Immune Histories to Enhance Infectious Disease Prevention and Vaccination Strategies and Optimize Surveillance Efforts

Mina’s lab combines extremely high-throughput serological methods with mathematical and epidemiological modeling to understand dynamics underlying infectious diseases transmission, how immunity develops and persists through life and how to improve epidemic and outbreak surveillance. His research uncovered long-term immunological consequences of measles that delete acquired immunity and increase risk for all other infections for years.

Sol Schulman, HMS instructor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Project Title: Functional Genetics of Tissue Factor in Bleeding and Thrombotic Risk

The Schulman lab integrates functional genetics, genomics, protein biochemistry and cell biology to identify new mechanisms regulating the initiation of blood coagulation relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of human bleeding and thrombotic disease.

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