National Honor

Rakesh Jain wins National Medal of Science

A prominent member of the Harvard Medical School faculty has been recognized with the nation’s highest honor for achievement and leadership in advancing science.

Rakesh Jain

Rakesh Jain, the A. Werk Cook Professor of Radiation Oncology (Tumor Biology) at HMS and Massachusetts General Hospital, has been named as one of the recipients of the National Medal of Science.

Jain’s distinguished career includes being elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.  

“Science and technology are fundamental to solving some of our nation’s biggest challenges,” President Obama said in a statement released Dec. 22 announcing the awards. “The knowledge produced by these Americans today will carry our country’s legacy of innovation forward and continue to help countless others around the world. Their work is a testament to American ingenuity.”

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. The president receives nominations from a committee of presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics and the biological, behavioral/social and physical sciences.

Jain is a chemical engineer who has applied his training to the service of cancer research. His laboratory at Mass General focuses on normalizing tumor vessels and their microenvironment.

“The overarching goal of our research is to dissect the pathophysiology of the vascular and extra-vascular components of tumors, to determine the role of tumor-host interactions in tumor biology and ultimately to translate this knowledge into improved cancer detection, prevention and treatment in humans,” Jain’s lab page states.

Using mathematical models, animal models and advanced imaging techniques, Jain has mapped blood vessel growth in tumors, pointing colleagues to new therapies for cancer. In 2001, Jain advanced a hypothesis on the normalization of blood vessels in tumors, suggesting that re-engineering—rather than repressing—blood vessel growth deterred tumor metastasis. This insight has been confirmed in mouse models and is being tested in human clinical trials.

Jain is one of nine recipients of the National Medial of Science who, along with eight winners of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, will receive their medals at a White House ceremony in early 2016.