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Three Eminent Columbia University Medical Center Researchers Elected to National Academy of Sciences

On April 27, 2020, it was announced that prominent Columbia University Iriving Medical Center researchers Angela Christiano, PhD, Molly Przeworski, PhD, and Lorraine S. Symington, PhD, had been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Dr. Przeworski was also elected this month to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, which recognizes and celebrates excellence of scientists, artists, scholars, and leaders in the public, non-profit, and private sectors. The National Academy of Sciences announced the election of Dr. Christiano, Dr. Przeworski, and Dr. Symington, with 143 other new members (http://www.nasonline.org/news-and-multimedia/news/2020-nas-election.html). Dr. Christiano (https://www.genetics.cumc.columbia.edu/profile/angela-christiano-phd) is the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and Professor of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is also Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Dermatology. Dr. Christiano's research has focused on understanding the genetic and molecular mechanisms that underlie inherited skin and hair disorders in humans. Her longstanding research program has been focused on determining the genetic and immunologic mechanisms underlying alopecia areata, an autoimmune form of hair loss. Her laboratory’s research has identified potential therapeutic targets for this disorder, including JAK inhibitors that are now in widespread clinical development by several large pharmaceutical companies and will likely represent the first class of FDA-approved drugs for alopecia areata. Most recently, her lab began applying the lessons learned from autoimmune mechanisms in alopecia areata toward improving anti-tumor immune responses in melanoma. Early in her research career, Dr. Christiano discovered genetic mutations associated with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare disease that causes severe blistering. She has developed induced pluripotent stem cell therapies for treatment of epidermolysis bullosa, combined with gene editing and correction of inherited mutations.

MOLLY PRZEWORSKI, PHD

Dr. Przeworski (https://systemsbiology.columbia.edu/faculty/molly-przeworski/pmg-people) is Professor of Systems Biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Professor of Biological Sciences on the Morningside campus.
Dr. Przeworski's work aims to understand how natural selection has shaped patterns of genetic variation and to identify the causes and consequences of variation in recombination and mutation rates in humans and other organisms.

Her research has contributed to a better understanding of how natural selection operates in humans and in other species. It has further revealed recombination rates to be highly variable among individuals and to explain how and why recombination rates evolve in apes.

LORRAINE S. SYMINGTON, PHD

Dr. Symington (https://microbiology.columbia.edu/faculty-lorraine-symington) is the Harold S. Ginsberg Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Dr. Symington, also a member of Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, studies how the cell repairs harmful DNA damage. When both strands of DNA break, homologous recombination is the main mechanism for repair. Defects in this repair mechanism have been associated with increased mutagenesis and cancer. Drugs that increase DNA damage, or disable other repair mechanisms, are effective in the treatment of cancers with homologous recombination deficiencies.

In recent years, the Symington lab has developed elegant genetic assays, coupled with physical analysis of recombination intermediates, to understand homologous recombination, and to further characterize how members of the RAD52 group of genes are involved in the repair of double-strand breaks.

She uses budding yeast as a model system, with the long-term goal of identifying the genes that control homologous recombination in people.

Dr. Symington was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2018 (https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/lorraine-symington-elected-american-...).

[Columbia University press release] [National Academy of Sciences announcement]

PHOTOS

(L-R): Dr. Angela Christiano, Dr. Molly Przeworski, and Dr. Lorraine Symington.