Gairdner Foundation Awards Eric S. Lander with International Award for Achievement

April 25, 2002

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Eric Lander, Director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genomic Research, is one of eight scientists to win the 2002 Gairdner Awards, considered one of the most prestigious international awards in medical research. Lander and the other winners were recognized for their outstanding contributions in genomic research.

Each year, the Gairdner Foundation, based in Canada, recognizes outstanding contributions by medical scientists whose work will significantly improve the quality of life. This year, the Foundation chose to honor achievements in the field of genomics, presenting the awards to the scientists "for their major original and pioneering contributions, both fundamental and applied to our understanding of mammalian and other genomes."

Whitehead Member Bob Weinberg was a recipient of the Gairdner Award in 1992.

The award, made in conjunction with lead sponsor Genome Canada, "reflects Canada’s commitment to the support of excellence in genomics research," according to Foundation officials. Genome Canada is the primary funding and information resource relating to genomics in Canada.

"The study of genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics will surely lead to major breakthroughs in medicine and health–from the discovery of the genesis of disease to the design and delivery system of new treatments," said Dr. John Dirks, President of the Gairdner Foundation. "We are proud to recognize the accomplishments of architects and innovators in these fields."

The scientists honored include the early architects Maynard V. Olson from University of Washington in Seattle, James D. Watson of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in NY, and Jean Weissenbach, from Genoscope, French National Sequencing Centre, in France; Human Genome Project leaders Eric Lander, John Sulston of the Sanger Center, and Robert Waterston of Washington University; Craig Venter formerly of Celera Genomics in MD; and bioinformatics pioneers Phillip P. Green, University of Washington in Seattle, WA, and Michael S. Waterman of University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

Lander, along with John Sulston of the Sanger Center and Robert Waterston of Washington University, were specifically acknowledged by the Gairdner Foundation for their major seminal contributions to sequencing of human and other genomes.

"One of the most exciting scientific accomplishments of our times was the publication in February 2001 of the initial sequencing of the human genome," the Foundation noted. "The authors of this landmark paper were the International Genome Sequencing Consortium, a co-ordinated group of almost 20 laboratories around the world. While all participants in this historic endeavour deserve enormous credit for their contributions, Dr. Eric Lander, Sir John Sulston and Dr. Robert Waterston are recognized for their inspired leadership and commitment to the goal of determining the complete human DNA sequence."

Lander was first author on this Nature paper and under his leadership, the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research grew to become the flagship of the Human Genome Project. Lander helped develop cost-effective processes to map and sequence the human genome, creating world-class automation, robotics, and information technology to sequence nearly a third of all the sequence now available in public databases.

Also a leader in functional genomics, the application of genomic tools to medical problems, Lander has united the diverse disciplines of biochemistry, biology, information technology, mathematics and engineering in order to increase understanding of medical disease such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma.

Lander is a member of the Whitehead Institute and the founder and director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research, one of the world’s leading genome centers. He is also professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Lander earned his B.A. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1978 and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Oxford University in 1981. He was an assistant and associate professor of managerial economics at the Harvard Business School from 1981 to 1990. He joined the Whitehead Institute as a Fellow in 1986 and joined the faculty of the Whitehead Institute and MIT in 1989 where he is a full professor.

Dr. Lander was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1978 and received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1987 for his work in genetics.

He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1997, the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1998, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999. He has received numerous awards and honorary degrees.

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