SfRBM's Senior Awards Committee has announced that the recipient of the 2017 Discovery Award is Gregg Semenza, MD, Ph.D. of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Dr. Semenza was recognized for his discovery of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1), which transformed the redox field. He provided the first experimental evidence that identified HIF-1 as the initial actor in the signal transduction pathway that enables cells to sense and respond to changes in oxygen tension. Dr. Semenza's insight was to use molecular biology techniques and work backward from the promoter of erythropoietin, the main humoral regulator of erythropoiesis, which serves to increase oxygen-carrying capacity. He found HIF-1 to be a key transcription factor that was integral to a new mechanistic concept, where HIF-1a directly mediated a coordinated gene expression program that becomes engaged when cells experience a decrease in oxygenation to prompt immediate adaptive changes. His lab has shown that HIF-1 plays important roles in cardiovascular disorders, cancer, COPD, diabetes, sleep apnea, transplant rejection, ocular neovascularization and hematologic disorders, and they are investigating the role of HIF-1 in cancer and developing HIF-1 inhibitors for the treatment of cancer and eye diseases.
Dr. Semenza's discovery of HIF has had a broad impact from the basic sciences to the clinic. PubMed shows a steady progression of HIF publications per year since the initial discovery in 1992, that currently in 2016, equates to a production of approximately 5 new HIF papers per day! Dr. Semenza as a resource for the field is evident in the approximately 100,000 citations of his body of work.
The vital role of oxygen is at the core of SfRBM science. What is remarkable is that Dr. Semenza's discovery of HIF truly embodies what is fascinating about SfRBM science, the opportunity to transcend and interconnect chemistry, biology, and medicine. His discovery of HIF is highly significant, instantiating the mammalian oxygen sensor at the molecular level that then provided a new mechanistic framework to understand how oxygen gradients connect to phenotypic adaptations. The discovery of HIF firmly planted a redox flag on major sectors of medicine, leading to new fundamental understanding of physiology and the etiology, progression and sequelae of ischemia, cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, diabetes, infectious diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Semenza is a Johns Hopkins University professor of genetic medicine, pediatrics, medicine, oncology, radiation oncology, and biological chemistry and serves as the director of the Vascular Program at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering. He was recognized in 2016 as a co-recipient of the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, often a forerunner of the Nobel Prize. Dr. Semenza is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and an editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Medicine. He is an ambassador for the redox field, consistent advocate for the entire SfRBM scientific community and a source of pride for us all.
Dr. Semenza will give a featured lecture at SfRBM's 24th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD, on Friday, December 1, titled, "Maintenance of Oxygen and Redox Homeostasis by Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1". He will also be presented with a medal, cash award, and offered an invitation to publish a review article in Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
Click here to learn more about Dr. Semenza.
SfRBM would like to congratulate him on this highly deserved honor.