Eric Lander Named Scientist of the Year

April 3, 2003

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Eric Lander, a Member of Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., has been named “Scientist of the Year” by the National Disease Research Interchange in recognition of his leadership in the field of genomic research and development.

Lander is the founder and director of the Whitehead’s Center for Genome Research, one of the world’s leading genome centers. He also is a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lander delivered the keynote address at NDRI’s “Conference on the Genetics of Rare Disease: Window to Common Disorders” March 25 in Washington, D.C.

The staging for this conference was set against the backdrop of what Lander views as tremendously exciting times for biomedical research.

“Biology is entering its next historic revolution,” he said. “This revolution, catalyzed by the Human Genome Project, is transforming biology into an information-based science, able to take a comprehensive global view of biological systems. By combining detailed knowledge about the individual components with global understanding of the system as a whole, this revolution promises to yield new insights into the mechanisms of human disease.”

The Human Genome Project is really just the beginning, Lander added. What must follow, he said, is the creation of a comprehensive tool kit to attack disease. “For instance,” he explained, “we need to define the complete gene set, delineate the individual genetic variations underlying disease, compare sequences across evolution to better understand the regulatory elements, figure out the circuitry connecting the parts and define the complete protein set. The next decade will see us engaged in acquiring these tools.”

Lander points out that The Human Genome Project provides geneticists the comprehensive data needed to tackle the genetic underpinnings of both rare genetic diseases as well as common diseases. “There are more than 6,000 genetic and rare diseases afflicting more than 25 million Americans. NDRI’s conference aims to bring into focus the importance of the new global tools to solve disease and focus on challenges ahead, not only the scientific challenges, but the ethical, legal, and social consequences for society.”

Lander has been one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, and one of eight scientists world-wide to win the Gairdner Award for his outstanding contribution to genomic research.

Under his direction, the Whitehead Center for Genome Research has been responsible for developing most of the key tools used in modern mammalian genomics and for making these tools freely available to the scientific community. These include development of genetic and physical maps of the human and mouse genomes, providing a critical foundation for both genomic sequencing and the study of disease genetics, and work on the Human Genome Project that resulted in the production of 30 percent of the total sequence of the human genome. Under his leadership, the Whitehead Center launched a revolution in the study of genetic variation and its application to understanding human disease and led a collaborative effort to identify more than 1.5 million sites of common genetic variation in human beings. The Center also is credited with organizing the ongoing effort to sequence the mouse genome.

Lander has pioneered many of the novel applications of genomics to biomedical research including creating widely used methods for studying complex genetic traits in humans, animals and plants, employing population genetics to identify human disease genes, and classifying diseases based on patterns of gene expression. He and his colleagues have applied these methods to a wide range of medical problems including cancer, diabetes, hypertension and dwarfism.


Communications and Public Affairs
Phone: 617-258-6851

Whitehead Institute is a world-renowned non-profit research institution dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical research.
Wholly independent in its governance, finances, and research programs, Whitehead shares a close affiliation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
through its faculty, who hold joint MIT appointments.

© Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research              455 Main Street          Cambridge, MA 02142