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Pioneer & Luminary Awards Presented at Personalized Medicine World Conference (PMWC) 2017 at Duke

Day 1 of the two-day Personalized Medicine World Conference (PMWC) 2017 at Duke (May 24-25) ended with the presentation of Pioneer and Luminary awards to major contributors to the advance of precision medicine. The PMWC Luminary Award recognizes recent contributions of preeminent figures who have accelerated personalized medicine into the clinical marketplace. The PMWC Pioneer Award is given to rare individuals who presaged the advent of personalized medicine when less evolved technology and encouragement from peers existed, but still made major advances in the field. This year, the PMWC honored Francis Collins (Director, NIH), Elaine Mardis (Co-Director, Genomics Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital), and Keith Yamamoto (Vice Chancellor Research, UCSF) with the Luminary Award. For the Pioneer Award, Kathy Giusti (photo) (Founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and Co-Chair, HBS Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator), and Mark Levin (Co-Founder & Partner, Third Rock Ventures) were recognized. Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, is a highly revered physician-geneticist who, as Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, oversaw the successful 15-year multibillion-dollar effort to sequence the human genome. Often considered the most significant scientific undertaking of our time, researchers around the globe are now able to use genomic tools to expand understanding of human biology, combat disease and improve health through precision medicine. In 2009, Dr. Collins was named Director of the National Institutes of Health and went on to lead the Precision Medicine Initiative, now All of Us, to study the DNA and medical histories of one million American volunteers to better predict disease risk, understand how diseases occur, and find improved diagnosis and treatment strategies. Dr. Collins advised President Obama on the creation of many other prominent health initiatives, including the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neuro technologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Dr. Collins received his education at the University of Virginia, Yale University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served on the faculty of the University of Michigan. Dr. Collins developed a more effective method to isolate disease genes called positional cloning and was one of the first to identify the specific genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, and Huntington’s disease. Among the numerous awards Dr. Collins has received are the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, and the Inamori Ethics Prize.


Elaine Mardis, PhD, is an internationally recognized expert in genomics, cancer genomics and sequencing technologies whose research interests are in the application of next-generation sequencing to characterize cancer genomes and transcriptomes, as well as translation of basic science discoveries about human disease to support therapeutic decision-making. Prior to being named Co-Director of the Genomics Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2016, Dr. Mardis served as Co-Director of the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis since its inception in 1993. As Co-Director and Director of Technology Development at one of four genomics centers funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, Dr. Mardis played a pivotal role in the completion of the Human Genome project by helping to create methods and automation pipelines. She then orchestrated the Center’s efforts to explore massively parallel sequencing technologies and transition them into production sequencing capabilities as well as new applications. The Institute was among the first to use DNA sequencing technology to explore cancer tumor growth, resulting in the international effort to explore the genomics of cancer. Her team was also integral to the St. Jude-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, which sequenced the genomes of cancerous and normal cells of nearly 1000 children. Dr. Mardis is a member of the Board of Directors for the American Association for Cancer Research and a member of the Supervisory Board of Qiagen N.V. She is Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Case Studies and a Senior Editor of Molecular Cancer Research, a Monitoring Editor of Disease Models and Mechanisms and Associate Editor of Annals of Oncology. Dr. Mardis also serves on several NIH study sections. Among numerous awards, Dr. Mardis has received the 2016 Morton K. Schwartz award from the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and the Scripps Translational Research award for her work on cancer genomics in 2010. She was included on the 2013 Thomson Reuters’ list of most cited researchers, one of only two women listed. Dr. Elaine Mardis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oklahoma with a BS degree in zoology and then completed her PhD in Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1989, also at Oklahoma.


Dr. Yamamoto is a leader in science and public policy. He has made an indelible impact by simultaneously advocating for precision medicine across the .edu, .gov, .com and .org sectors. As Chair of the National Academies Board on Life Sciences, he appointed and served on the study committee that produced “Toward Precision Medicine: Building a Knowledge Network for Biomedical Research and a New Taxonomy of Disease,” the report that enunciated the precision medicine concept. He helped to stimulate President Obama’s interest, which led to the Precision Medicine Initiative, as well as Governor Jerry Brown’s launch of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. He also promoted a precision medicine approach to Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, provoked broader participation by the corporate and nonprofit sectors, and directs UCSF Precision Medicine, an institution-wide imperative. In addition, Dr. Yamamoto has led or served on numerous federal or national committees focused on public and science policy, public understanding and support of biological research, research funding and peer review, and science education and the biomedical workforce; he chairs the Coalition for the Life Sciences, and sits on the National Academy of Medicine Council and Executive Committee, and the National Academy of Sciences Division of Earth and Life Studies Advisory Committee. He is a member of the Advisory Board for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Research!America. At UCSF, Dr. Yamamoto is vice chancellor for science policy and strategy, vice dean for research in the school of medicine, and professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology. He is a leading researcher, investigating transcriptional regulation by nuclear receptors, which mediate the actions of essential hormones and cellular signals; he uses mechanistic and systems approaches to pursue these problems in pure molecules, cells, and whole organisms. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Kathy Giusti, a multiple myeloma patient and business leader, founded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) in 1998. Giusti and the MMRF pioneered the establishment of innovative, collaborative research models in the areas of tissue banking, genomics, and clinical trials. Today, the MMRF is the only organization that has built an end-to-end cancer research system to facilitate and accelerate the entire process, and is the world’s top private funder of multiple myeloma research, having raised over $350 million since its inception. Guided by Giusti’s singular vision and business acumen, the MMRF created the first centralized tissue bank in multiple myeloma, which today houses 4,000 samples. In collaboration with the Broad Institute and the Translational Genomics Research Institute, the MMRF was the first to launch an initiative to map the multiple myeloma genome. Ten new drugs developed by MMRF initiatives have received FDA approval in the time it normally takes for one. Prior to founding the MMRF, Giusti was a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, holding senior positions at G.D. Searle and Merck. In recognition of her leadership in cancer research and the field of precision medicine, Giusti was named Faculty Co-Chair of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator. This $20M program is endowed by Robert Kraft and the Kraft Family Foundation and its mission is to speed precision medicine across all cancers. Giusti has earned several prestigious awards and recognitions, including being named one of three of Top Business Leaders Disrupting Medicine by Fortune Magazine, Time 100’s Most Influential People in the word and #19 on Fortune’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders list. Giusti served on President Obama’s 2015 Precision Medicine Initiative Working Group and continues to act as an active advisor to the Obama PMI (“All of Us”) and Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot program. Giusti received her MBA in general management from Harvard Business School. She holds an honorary Doctorate from the University of Vermont.


Mark Levin has been a life science leader for 40 years, most of them spent conceiving and launching biotechnology companies. Early on, Levin recognized that personalized medicine had the potential to benefit the patient and revolutionize both pharma and biotech. He strongly espoused that the only way the field would reach this potential was if all stakeholders banded together to overcome the many challenges it faced. To enable this, he helped conceive the Personalized Medicine Coalition. In 2007, Levin co-founded Third Rock Ventures, a different kind of VC firm that actively searched for disruptive medical technology and innovative science, to build into companies from the ground up. Many of these were based on personalized medicine, such as cancer epigenetics, gene therapy, and molecular diagnostics. Then he and his partners carefully selected the founding teams and instilled them with a sustainable culture. Third Rock hatched the ideas for most of their 36 portfolio companies including Foundation Medicine, Agios, BlueBird Bio, Editas Medicine, and Sage Therapeutics. Prior to Third Rock, Mark co-founded Mayfield Fund’s life science arm, where he was also founding CEO of companies such as Tularik, Cell Genesys/Abgenix, Stem Cells, and Millennium Pharmaceuticals, serving as CEO for 12 years. Earlier in his career, Levin was an engineer and project leader at Lilly and Genentech. He holds an M.S. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from Washington University.

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