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Eminenent Geneticist Eric S. Lander Honored with 2018 William Allan Award from American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has named Eric S. Lander, PhD, President and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the 2018 recipient of the annual William Allan Award. The Allan Award, which recognizes a scientist for substantial and far-reaching scientific contributions to human genetics, was established in 1961 in memory of William Allan, MD (1881-1943), one of the first American physicians to conduct extensive research on human genetics and hereditary diseases. Dr. Lander received his award, which included an engraved medal and $25,000 prize, on Thursday, October 18, 2018, during ASHG’s 68th Annual Meeting in San Diego, California. He presented his William Allan Award address immediately thereafter. Dr. Lander has been a major leader in the study of the human genome and in the Human Genome Project. In 1986, he and David Botstein, PhD, laid out fundamental ideas for key methods in human genetics—including for linkage disequilibrium mapping in populations, which has enabled the discovery of genes underlying common polygenic traits by genome-wide association studies. From this work, Dr. Lander saw the need for a detailed genetic map of the human genome. He then played a central role in creating the genetic, physical, and sequence maps of the human and mouse genomes. He also led efforts to discover millions of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which have enabled efficient mapping of genes related to human diseases, including more than 30,000 loci underlying common diseases and traits. Dr. Lander helped pioneer the use of genome-wide expression analysis to characterize tumors. This initial work led to the creation of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a comprehensive catalog of cancer genes that defines and details the molecular architecture of the most common human malignancies. He has also done ground-breaking work on human population history, genome evolution, regulatory elements, long non-coding RNAs, three-dimensional folding of the human genome, and genome-wide functional screens to discover the genes essential for biological processes.

In 2004, Dr. Lander launched the Broad Institute, a research institution in which scientists collaboratively tackle challenges in genomic medicine—combining biology, chemistry, mathematics, computation, and engineering with medical science, clinical research, and open data-sharing.

“Dr. Lander’s involvement in creating the Broad Institute is just one of his many contributions to human genetics,” said David L. Nelson, PhD, President of ASHG. “His efforts through fundamental projects such as the Human Genome Project and The Cancer Genome Atlas have impacted the future of our field in directions beyond those initially imagined.”

Dr. Lander is currently a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. Among his awards and honors are: the Rhodes Scholarship (1978–81), the MacArthur Fellowship (1987-92), the Gairdner Foundation International Award in Canada (2002), the Albany Prize in Medicine and Biological Research (2010), the Dan David Prize in Israel (2012), the Mendel Medal of the Genetics Society of the UK (2012), and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013). From 2009-2017, he served as Co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for President Barack Obama. By the way, Dr.Lander was originally a mathematician and his favorite number is the prime number 17.

[Press release] [ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting]