Awards in the Department
HHMI selects Vamsi Mootha for prestigious honor
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced that Vamsi Mootha is among the 27 “top biomedical researchers” in the nation who will become HHMI investigators this fall. Selected for their scientific excellence, all of the investigators will receive flexible, financial support over the next five years so that they may move their research forward in creative and new directions.
Mootha is a professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School, a professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and a senior associate member of the Broad Institute and co-director of the institute’s Metabolism Program. Mootha’s research is primarily focused on the mitochondrion, the “powerhouse of the cell,” and its role in human disease. Mootha’s group has characterized the mitochondrial proteome, and has used this inventory to investigate the physiology of the organelle, and its role in rare but devastating inherited metabolic disorders.
“This is a very talented group of scientists. And while we cannot predict where their research will take them, we’re eager to help them move science forward,” HHMI president Robert Tjian said in a press statement.
The new group of HHMI investigators was selected from among a group of 1,155 applicants with five to 15 years of experience as faculty members. HHMI – guided by the principle “people, not projects” – will provide each investigator with support for basic biomedical research over the next five years, at which time appointments may be renewed. The new investigators will begin their appointments in September 2013.
David Altshuler elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Join us in congratulating David Altshuler, chief academic officer and deputy director of the Broad Institute, on his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As a member, he joins some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts.
Altshuler, a clinical endocrinologist and human geneticist, has been on the faculty of Harvard since 2000 and is currently a professor of genetics and medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology, the Diabetes Unit of the Department of Medicine, and the Center for Human Genetic Research, all at Massachusetts General Hospital. Altshuler is a founding core member of the Broad Institute and also an adjunct professor of biology at MIT.
One of the nation's most prestigious honorary societies, the Academy of Arts and Sciences is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts, and education.
"Election to the Academy honors individual accomplishment and calls upon members to serve the public good," said Academy President Leslie C. Berlowitz. "We look forward to drawing on the knowledge and expertise of these distinguished men and women to advance solutions to the pressing policy challenges of the day."
The list of the new members is located at https://www.amacad.org/members.aspx. The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on October 12, 2013, at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading "thinkers and doers" from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.
MGH Researchers Earn Distinctive Awards from NIH and White House
Every year, the Director's Office of the National Institutes of Health awards major grants to researchers who challenge the status quo. Once again several MGH investigators are among the recipients of these prestigious awards. Vamsi Mootha, MD, of Molecular Biology, has received one of 17 Transformative Research Project Awards to investigate his novel approach for treating disorders of the subcellular power plants called mitochondria.
David Altshuler has been awarded the Curt Stern Prize for 2011
The Curt Stern Award is given annually by ASHG in recognition of major scientific achievement in human genetics that has occurred in the last 10 years. The work could be a single discovery, or a series of contributions on a similar or related topic. This Award honors the memory of Dr. Curt Stern (1902-1981) as an outstanding pioneer in human genetics who served as ASHG president in 1956. An engraved crystal award and a monetary prize will be presented to the Stern Award recipient at the Society’s Annual Meeting.
Endocrinologist and human geneticist David Altshuler, MD, PhD, is honored as this year’s recipient of the ASHG Curt Stern Award for his outstanding contributions as a leader in the study of human genetic variation and its application to common, complex diseases using tools and knowledge gained from the Human Genome Project.
Altshuler is a co-founder and currently serves as Deputy Director and Chief Academic Officer of the Broad Institute and Director of the Institute’s Program in Medical and Population Genetics, which has pioneered new models of scientific collaboration. He is also a Professor of Genetics and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Center for Human Genetic Research, as well as at the Diabetes Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Altshuler is currently a member of the ASHG Board of Directors.
Altshuler’s work has provided key scientific contributions that have enabled researchers to gain a better understanding of the genetic basis of diseases and helped to identify the gene variants that influence the risk of common conditions, focusing primarily on type 2 diabetes as well as blood cholesterol, myocardial infarction, prostate cancer, systemic lupus erythematosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. His research findings have provided new clues regarding the underlying mechanisms that cause these diseases, and more generally, provided a blueprint for analyzing the role of genetic variations in human health and disease.
David Altshuler has been a lead investigator of several major projects to help create shared research resources – including the SNP Consortium, the International HapMap Project, and the 1,000 Genomes Project. These fundamental resources have aided human geneticists in their efforts to discover disease-causing genes by providing publicly-accessible maps of human genome sequence variation data. Together with his long-term collaborators Mark Daly and Stacey Gabriel, Altshuler has contributed laboratory and analytical methods for applying these insights in disease research.
Furthermore, Dr. Altshuler has also played a key role increasing scientific collaboration in human genetics on an international level. In partnership with Mike Boehnke, Leif Groop and Mark McCarthy, Altshuler established the DIAGRAM Consortium, which has steered genetic research in type 2 diabetes towards a more collaborative, team-based approach coupled with a strong commitment to advancing the careers of junior investigators and making data publicly available to the scientific community.
Overall, Dr. Altshuler’s work has had an enormous impact on the human genetics field by laying the foundation for systematic genetic studies of human disease. In doing so, he has been a leader in taking the important step towards effectively integrating the study of genetics, genomics, and medicine. The American Society of Human Genetics would like to recognize Dr. David Altshuler for his significant achievements in advancing human genetics research and collaboration among scientists in the field by honoring him as this year’s recipient of the ASHG Curt Stern Award.
Dr. Jack Szostak of the Department of Molecular Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his original contributions to our understanding of the processes of life and disease. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize to Dr. Szostak "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase". With Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and Carol Greider, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, he demonstrated the existence of telomeres and predicted the enzyme telomerase.
''The discoveries by Blackburn, Greider and Szostak have added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies,'' the prize committee said in its citation. They solved the mystery of how a chromosome can be copied completely during cell division and remain free of errors during the process. They showed how organisms use telomerase to prevent the genome from degrading during division. His work made possible subsequent studies linking telomerase to cancer and age-related diseases in humans.
Dr. Szostak has also received the 2008 Heineken Prize and the 2006 Lasker Award for his accomplishments in basic medical research for his work on telomerase. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute fellow, the Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. His current research is on the origin of life.