Laurie Boyer awarded Genzyme Fellowship

October 5, 2006

Tags: Jaenisch LabYoung LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Postdoctoral scientist Laurie Boyer has been selected by a Whitehead committee to receive the Genzyme Postdoctoral Fellowship at Whitehead Institute. The $90,000 award, sponsored by the Cambridge-based biotech company, completely funds Boyer’s position—including all expenses—for one year.

Boyer works in the labs of both Whitehead Members Rick Young and Rudolf Jaenisch where she focuses on analyzing the regulatory circuitry in embryonic stem cells. In particular, she is interested in the molecular chain of events that grant embryonic stem cells such unique properties, in particular, the potential to develop into virtually any kind of cell type.

“Laurie has done a fantastic job in helping us define the genetic and epigenetic control mechanisms in both human and mouse embryonic stem cells,” says Jaenisch.

In the fall of 2005, Boyer and colleagues published findings in the journal Cell that revealed for the first time how the master regulators in human embryonic stem cells control the genome. The research team led by Boyer discovered that three proteins (belonging to a larger class of proteins called “transcription factors”) preside over an important group of developmental genes. By controlling these networks, these three proteins keep stem cells at the developmental starting gate. As they gradually switch off, the stem cell immediately begins its journey toward a specific tissue type.

Boyer has also co-authored two recent publications, appearing in Nature and Cell in April 2006, that demonstrate how another network of developmental regulators, called Polycomb group proteins, controls the embryonic stem cell genome in both humans and mice.

These papers mark the first successful attempts at mapping an embryonic stem cell’s regulatory network on a genome-wide scale.

Boyer, who has co-authored a dozen research papers, received her PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She was then granted the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award to continue her training as a postdoctoral fellow at Whitehead Institute.

“Over the next year my research will focus on understanding the mechanisms that control how specific sets of genes are turned on or off in embryonic stem cells in order to allow for cellular specification,” says Boyer. “I believe that this work will have broad implications for understanding development and disease.”

“Laurie has outstanding intellectual, technical and leadership capabilities,” says Richard Young. “Her studies create an important foundation for much future work in the embryonic stem cell field.”

This is the third year that Genzyme has partnered with Whitehead to provide support for outstanding postdoctoral research. Last year’s Genzyme Fellow was Leah Cowen from the Lindquist lab, and in 2004 Konrad Hochedlinger from the Jaenisch lab received this fellowship.

Written by David Cameron.

Photo of Laurie Boyer

Whitehead postdoctoral researcher Laurie Boyer

Photo: Sam Ogden

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