Whitehead Member Rudolf Jaenisch to receive MGH's Warren Triennial Prize

December 16, 2010

Tags: Jaenisch LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Whitehead Institute Founding Member Rudolf Jaenisch has been named a recipient of the 2011 Warren Triennial Prize of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). 

By tradition, the prize is awarded to two scientists, and Jaenisch will share the prize with Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, who is on the faculty of both Kyoto University in Japan and the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco.

"The Warren Triennial is the top scientific award presented by the MGH, and we are delighted to be able to honor the groundbreaking work of Drs. Yamanaka and Jaenisch," says Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, chair of the MGH Executive Committee on Research and director of the MGH Cancer Center. "Their research has opened up a new direction for the future of medicine, and the MGH is particularly proud to recognize these discoveries in our bicentennial year, in which we will celebrate both the rich history and future promise of biomedical research."

“I am very honored and particularly pleased to be awarded this prize with Yamanaka, who has made such important contributions to this field,” says Jaenisch, who is also a professor of biology at MIT.

In 2006 Yamanaka created a new type of cell, the induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell. By adding four transcription factors to adult skin cells, Yamanaka reprogrammed the cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state. Working with these iPS cells, Yamanaka showed that they are able to give rise to almost any type of mammalian cell.

Both Jaenisch and Yamanaka reported growing live mice from iPS cells in 2007.  Jaenisch then pushed to realize iPS cells’ therapeutic potential by correcting sickle cell anemia in mice and treating Parkinson’s disease in rats. Earlier this year, Jaenisch reprogrammed human blood cells into iPS cells that could be used to study hematological diseases. Jaenisch has also continued his work with human embryonic stem cells, to understand and overcome these cells’ limitations for use in regenerative biology.

“This prize recognizes what we’ve known for years: that Rudolf is absolutely and consistently at the forefront and has been for years a pioneer in the science of cellular reprogramming and in establishing its application in the treatment of human disease,” says Whitehead Institute Director David Page, who notes that prior to the discovery of methods to create iPS cells, Jaenisch used a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer in an unprecedented proof-of-principle experiment to correct genetic defects in mouse models of immunodeficiency.

Jaenisch is the third Whitehead Member to receive the Warren Prize. Founding Director David Baltimore won the award in 1971, as did Founding Member Robert Weinberg in 1983.

Created in 1871, the Warren Prize was named for Dr. John Collins Warren, a co-founder of the MGH who played a leading role in establishing what would become the New England Journal of Medicine and, on October 16, 1846, performed the first public surgical operation on a patient under ether anesthesia. Awarded every third year, the Warren Prize, which includes a $50,000 award, honors scientists who have made outstanding contributions in fields related to medicine.

Written by Nicole Giese Rura

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Rudolf Jaenisch's primary affiliation is with Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where his laboratory is located and all his research is conducted. He is also a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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