Whitehead Member Peter Reddien selected as 2008 Keck Distinguished Young Scholar

July 17, 2008

Tags: Reddien LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Whitehead Member Peter Reddien has been named one of five Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research by the W.M. Keck Foundation.  Reddien will receive a grant of up to $1 million over the next five years in support of his laboratory’s research investigating the genetic mechanisms of regeneration in planaria flatworms.

“The Keck Foundation has a remarkable track record in supporting exceptionally innovative and creative science and I’m motivated to continue this tradition,” says Reddien. “I am excited by the recognition of the accomplishments of my laboratory and by the support for our future experiments."

Reddien studies the mechanisms the planarian flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea uses to regenerate new heads, new tails or entire new organisms from tiny fragments of its body.  His lab has helped establish planaria as a viable and powerful molecular system for studying regeneration, and provided insights into the genes that mediate the role of stem cells in the process.  

Most recently, his lab discovered that the gene Smed-beta-catenin-1 is crucial in determining head to tail polarity – whether planaria, when cut, produce a head or tail at a particular site.  These findings could help to explain how regenerating animals “know” what missing tissues to make.

“Peter Reddien is clearly deserving of this honor,” says Whitehead Institute Director David Page. “He is a bold, creative scientist with extraordinary potential. We knew this when we invited him to join the Institute, and it’s particularly rewarding to see an organization like the Keck Foundation recognize this as well.”  

The W.M. Keck Foundation also awarded this honor to Whitehead Member David Sabatini in 2005.  Established in 1998, the Young Scholars Program aims to support the nation’s most promising young scientists involved in cutting-edge biomedical research that addresses the fundamental mechanisms of human disease. 

Each applicant was nominated by his or her academic institution and then evaluated individually by the Foundation’s Medical Research Board and a scientific advisory committee of outside experts.  The program finalists were unanimously approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Written by Cristin Carr.

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