Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences Recipients

In 2013, the FNIH presented the first Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, an annual award of $100,000 recognizing outstanding achievement by a promising young scientist in biomedical research. Any member of an accredited educational and/or scientific institution can nominate a biomedical investigator for this prize that is presented at the FNIH Award Ceremony each May. The prize is made possible by the generosity of philanthropist Ann Lurie.

Zhijian “James” Chen, Ph.D.2018:
Zhijian "James" Chen, Ph.D.
Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, George L. MacGregor Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Sciences, Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Chen discovered the enzyme cyclic GMP‐AMP synthase (cGAS) and its corresponding pathway, which solved a century-old mystery about DNA. Long before DNA was known to be a genetic material, scientists knew that it could activate the body’s immune system to fight infections. However, they did not understand the cellular process that occurred to trigger this response until Dr. Chen’s discovery. Learn more in this video.


David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D.2017:
David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D.
Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research; Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Sabatini discovered the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) cellular pathway as a key regulator of growth and metabolism in response to nutrients. His research identified the specific protein components of the mTOR pathway, including mTOR and two large complexes that contain it called mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1) and Complex 2 (mTORC2), and documented how mTOR regulation and dysregulation affects normal and diseased physiology. Learn more in this video.


Jeannie T. Lee, M.D., Ph.D2016:
Jeannie T. Lee, M.D., Ph.D.
Molecular Biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital; Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School

Dr. Lee’s pioneering work has elucidated how long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) control gene expression and chromosome architecture, and how an entire sex chromosome can be turned off. Her work has shown that lncRNAs have a special place in epigenetics regulation, for — unlike proteins — lncRNAs can target biological activities to a unique location in our genome. Dr. Lee has also invented novel methods in RNA therapeutics, such as “RNA-activation,” which are opening up new ways of treating diseases from autism to cancer. Learn more in this video.


Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D2015:
Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D.
D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Dr. Deisseroth pioneered the field of optogenetics, which has greatly expanded our understanding of normal behavior as well as of diseases like Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and depression by combining genetic manipulation and optics to activate or deactivate precisely targeted brain cells. In addition to leading the development of optogenetics, his team also pioneered CLARITY, a chemical engineering method for making biological tissues such as the intact brain fully transparent and accessible, enabling scientists to observe intricate molecular-resolution details within healthy brains as well as brains from Alzheimer’s disease and autism patients. Learn more in this video.


Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D.2014:
Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Doudna’s research seeks to understand how non-coding RNA molecules control the expression of genetic information and she has published extensively in the field of CRISPR-Cas biology. In 2012, she and her colleagues at UC Berkeley and Sweden discovered CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a gene-editing technique that gives researchers the equivalent of a molecular surgery kit for routinely disabling, activating or changing genes. Learn more in this video.


Ruslan M. Medzhitov, Ph.D.2013:
Ruslan M. Medzhitov, Ph.D.
David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine

Dr. Medzhitov has made seminal discoveries related to the innate immune system, the human body’s first line of defense against invading organisms which cause infection. He discovered and characterized a class of proteins called Toll-like receptors that recognize and facilitate the immune response to toxic proteins. He has dramatically expanding our understanding of the key roles Toll-like receptors play in controlling adaptive immunity, infections, chronic inflammation and tumor growth. Learn more in this video.