Rudolf Jaenisch honored for research in cellular reprogramming

December 22, 2008

Tags: Jaenisch LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Whitehead Member Rudolf Jaenisch has been named a recipient of the 2008 Meira and Shaul G. Massry Prize in recognition of his work in creating so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPS cells.

In creating IPS cells, researchers genetically reprogram fully differentiated adult cells, such as skin cells, back into an embryonic stem cell-like state. From this state of pluripotency, such cells might then be coaxed to mature into any cell type in the body. Shaul Massry, the prize’s namesake and Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, calls the creation of IPS cells “an amazing advance that opens broad new horizons for the application of stem cell technology.”

The Massry Prize is given annually to those making outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health. In receiving the award, Jaenisch was lauded for adding significantly to the conceptual understanding of the basis of cellular reprogramming. Jaenisch was the first to provide proof of concept of the application of reprogramming fibroblasts to IPS cells, and the first to use IPS cells to treat animal models of human disease. In recent months, scientists in Jaenisch’s lab successfully treated rodent models of sickle-cell anemia and Parkinson’s disease.

Jaenisch is sharing the honor with two other renowned stem cell researchers: Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, and James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

“It’s an honor to receive a prestigious prize like the Massry,” says Jaenisch, who is also a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s particularly meaningful to share this honor with James Thompson and Shinya Yamanaka, two researchers for whom I have the utmost respect.”

The Massry Foundation established the prize in 1996. Since its inception, eight of its 21 recipients have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize.

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