Geneticist Stephen J. Elledge Wins Breakthrough Prize

Award recognizes scientist's trailblazing work on how cells sense DNA damage and initiate self-repair

Harvard Medical School geneticist Stephen Elledge is the recipient of the 2017 Breakthrough Prize for unraveling the mechanism by which cells sense DNA damage and initiate self-repair. Image: Emmanuel Ording

Stephen Elledge, the Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has been named a 2017 recipient of the Breakthrough Prize, which recognizes paradigm-shifting discoveries in the life sciences, physics and mathematics.

Elledge is being honored for his wide-ranging contributions across multiple fields in biology. His work has elucidated critical mechanisms in cell division, cell aging, cancer growth, and protein breakdown and recycling.

The Breakthrough Prize—said to be the largest in the world for science—includes a $3 million award for each recipient and will be celebrated during a televised gala at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and broadcast live on the National Geographic channel on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 10 p.m. E.T.

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“This magnificent award is a fitting recognition and acknowledgement of Stephen’s outstanding ingenuity, tenacity and vision,” said Elizabeth G. Nabel, president of Brigham and Women's Health Care. “We are extremely fortunate to count him among our colleagues here at Brigham and Women’s, and congratulate him and this year’s other prize winners on their remarkable achievements.”

One of Elledge’s most pivotal discoveries is unraveling the process by which cells sense DNA damage and initiate self-repair, a critical fail-safe mechanism that safeguards both individual cells and the integrity and health of the entire organism.

Stephen J. Elledge
Video: Emmanuel Ording Productions