Awards & Recognitions: September 2022

Honors received by HMS faculty, postdocs, staff, and students

Arlene Sharpe, the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology and head of the Department of Immunology in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

FASEB’s Excellence in Science Awards recognize female scientists who have demonstrated excellence and innovation in their research fields, exemplary leadership, and mentorship.

Sharpe is being recognized for her discoveries in effective treatments for cancer, chronic viral infections, and autoimmune diseases, as well as her work promoting the career development of the next generation of scientists.

“Dr. Sharpe has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in medical research and education,” said HMS Dean George Q. Daley, who supported Sharpe’s nomination for the award.

“Her scientific discoveries are among the best examples of bench-to-bedside work in the past 25 years,” said Daley.

Sharpe will receive her award at the annual meeting of a FASEB member society of her choice, where she will also present a lecture.

Two HMS physician scientists have been named to receive the Trailblazer Prize for Clinician-Scientists by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. The Trailblazer Prize recognizes the contributions of early career clinician-scientists whose research has the potential to or has led to innovations in patient care.

The two HMS faculty members being recognized are:

Eliezer Van Allen, HMS associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who is being recognized for his use of computational approaches to develop the science of personalized cancer care.

Nikhil Wagle, HMS associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who is being recognized for developing novel gene sequencing approaches to profiling cancer mutations that affect treatment response and drug resistance.

Drs. Van Allen and Wagle will receive their awards at the FNIH Awards Ceremony in October 2022.

Irene Ghobrial, HMS professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has been named to receive the William Dameshek Prize from the American Society of Hematology (ASH). The prize recognizes an early- or mid-career hematologist who made a recent outstanding contribution to the field of hematology.

Ghobrial will be recognized for her research on the mechanisms underlying disease progression in multiple myeloma.

The prize will be presented to Ghobrial at ASH’s annual meeting in New Orleans in December 2022.

Frederick Alt, the HMS Charles A. Janeway Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, will be awarded the 2023 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, Germany’s highest medical award.

Alt and co-winner David Schatz of Yale Medical School will be recognized for their discovery of molecules and mechanisms that enable the immune system to recognize billions of different antigens.

“The picture we have today of the diversification of antigen receptors in the immune system of vertebrates is above all thanks to [Alt and Schatz],” said Thomas Boehm, chairman of the Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation.

“They have raised our knowledge of the development of the immune system to a new level,” Boehm said.

Antigen receptors — proteins capable of capturing antigens —come in two forms: antibodies produced by B cells and structures on the surface of T cells. The human body can build approximately ten billion different antibodies but only has genetic “blueprints” for about 20,000 of these antibodies. The incredible variety of antibodies are made possible by a process of cutting up and reassembling the genetic information in DNA on certain chromosomes of maturing lymphocytes.

Schatz discovered the enzyme complex responsible for cutting the DNA, while Alt discovered the repair enzymes that join the cut segments. Additionally, Alt showed that this combinatorial diversity is increased by the insertion of very short, random DNA sequences, called N-nucleotides, at the interfaces of the gene segments to be joined.

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize — named after Nobel Prize-winning German physician and scientist Paul Ehrlich — recognizes scientists who have made special contributions in immunology, cancer research, hematology, microbiology, and chemotherapy.

Alt will be awarded the prize at a ceremony in Frankfurt in March 2023.

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