BETHESDA, MD, February 16, 2016 — The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) has selected Jeannie T. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., as the 2016 winner of the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences for uncovering the functions of long, noncoding RNA (lncRNA) in epigenetic regulation. Her work has accelerated the understanding of mechanisms driving epigenetic regulation, which involves changes in gene function without changing the DNA sequence. Specifically, Dr. Lee’s work investigates how a whole sex chromosome can be shut down and how "X-chromosome inactivation" can be leveraged to treat congenital diseases, such as Rett, CDKL5 and Fragile X Syndromes in addition to numerous cancers such as breast, ovarian, blood, intestinal and male germ cell tumors where there is often an extra x- chromosomal copy. The Lurie Prize will be presented to Dr. Lee on May 18, 2016 in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Lee is a Professor of Genetics and Pathology at Harvard Medical School and at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Her pioneering work on X- inactivation and lncRNA has important implications for many types of epigenetic therapies. Her discoveries shed light on the complex interplay between lncRNA and general biological processes. The discoveries are changing the way we think about how specific genes can be turned on and off precisely with respect to time and location. Her work is informing us of how complex human diseases arise and might eventually be cured.
“Dr. Lee’s work has revolutionized the field of epigenetics,” said Charles A. Sanders, M.D., Chair of the FNIH. “Her research has led to groundbreaking contributions, and we now have a better understanding of the unique role that long non-coding RNAs play in gene expression, which could lead to the development of new therapeutics.”
Dr. Lee was selected for the award by a jury of six distinguished biomedical researchers, chaired by Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., Director-Emeritus of The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University and Vice Chairman for Science of the FNIH.
“It is with great pleasure that we honor Dr. Lee with the Lurie Prize for her innovative work studying X- chromosome inactivation,” said Maria C. Freire, Ph.D., President and Executive Director of the FNIH. “Dr. Lee’s pioneering work clearly demonstrates the power of basic science to fundamentally change and expand our understanding of human biology and potentiate our ability to battle disease and disability.”
The Lurie Prize recognizes outstanding achievement by a promising scientist age 52 or younger, and includes a $100,000 honorarium, endowed by philanthropist and FNIH Board member Ann Lurie. Ms. Lurie is president of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation, which she founded with her late husband, Robert, and the President of Lurie Holdings.
“It is exciting to see Dr. Lee’s research unlocking new ways to treat congenital diseases, such as Rett Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome,” Ms. Lurie said. “We are proud to recognize Dr. Lee’s critical work in hopes that it helps patients with these diseases.”
Dr. Lee received her M.D., Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her undergraduate work in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard University. She is a recipient of the Molecular Biology Award from the National Academy of Sciences as well as a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science the Genetics Society of America.
“I am truly honored to receive the 2016 Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences and to be recognized for the achievements we have made using the model of X chromosome inactivation. I hope that we will one day be able to translate these discoveries into treatment for a multitude of diseases.” said Dr. Lee. “I am very grateful to lab colleagues who have worked tirelessly with me over the years to examine RNA functions through the lens of X chromosome inactivation.”
The previous winners of the Lurie Prize are Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., from Stanford University (2015), Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., from the University of California Berkeley (2014) and Ruslan M. Medzhitov, Ph.D., of Yale University (2013).
For more information about the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, please visit http://fnih.org/lurieprize.
About the Foundation for the NIH
The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health creates and manages alliances with public and private institutions in support of the mission of the NIH, the world’s premier medical research agency. The Foundation, also known as the FNIH, works with its partners to accelerate biomedical research and strategies against diseases and health concerns in the United States and across the globe. The FNIH organizes and administers research projects; supports education and training of new researchers; organizes educational events and symposia; and administers a series of funds supporting a wide range of health issues. Established by Congress in 1990, the FNIH is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For additional information about the FNIH, please visit http://fnih.org.