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Innovators in Science Award: Past Winners

Cancer Immunology

Takeda and the New York Academy of Sciences are proud to announce the winners of the 2024 Innovators in Science Award, recognized for their outstanding research in cancer immunology. The winners will be celebrated at a ceremony in April 2024.

Senior Scientist Winner

Robert Schreiber, PhDAndrew M. and Jane M. Bursky Distinguished Professor of Pathology & Immunology and director of The Bursky Center for Human Immunology and ImmunotherapyWashington University in St. Louis

Robert Schreiber, PhD, is an international leader in the fields of tumor immunology and cytokine biology. His early work was foundational in characterizing the role of cytokines in promoting immune responses to cancer. Dr. Schreiber pioneered the concept of “cancer immunoediting,” which describes how the immune system can induce, promote and prevent cancer. He also identified a novel subset of immune cells that interfere with cancer immunotherapy.

Early-Career Scientist Winner

Elham Azizi, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the Herbert and Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Cancer Data Research
Columbia University

Elham Azizi, PhD, is recognized for developing a suite of computational tools and models that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to characterize immune profiles in the tumor microenvironment. Her novel machine learning algorithms are applied to data from genomic and imaging technologies, guiding improved and personalized cancer therapies. Dr. Azizi’s work has helped identify immune components involved in anti-tumor responses and characterize immune states that promote tumor progression and response to immunotherapy. Her innovative models have identified, for the first time, determinants of immunotherapy response in leukemia.

Gastroenterology

In October 2022, Takeda Pharmaceuticals in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences celebrated the Winners at a medal ceremony in Boston, MA. Scientific luminaries and industry leaders convened at The Boston Public Library to recognize progress in gastroenterology.

Senior Scientist Winner

Jeffrey Gordon, MD
Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor
Director, The Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology
Washington University in St. Louis

Jeffrey Gordon, MD, is a pioneer in the field of gut microbial biology and is widely recognized as The Father of Microbiome Science. From his early work, studying mice reared under germ-free conditions and colonized with human gut microbes, to his more recent explorations into how microbiota influence nutrition, he has made tremendous contributions to our understanding of metabolic physiology, immunity, and disease. A key finding of his studies revealed that it is not individual bacterial species, but alterations in community diversity and structure, that account for human disease pathology such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and malnutrition.  With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gordon developed microbiota-targeting dietary supplements which have succeeded in restoring healthy microbiota in malnourished children.  Collectively, Gordon’s body of research has made an enormous impact on present and future global public health.

Early-Career Scientist Winner

Elaine Y. Hsiao, PhD
De Logi Associate Professor in Biological Sciences
UCLA

Elaine Y. Hsiao, PhD, has made groundbreaking discoveries into how the gut microbiome influences cognition and behavior. Her research has upended conventional thinking about neurological diseases and covers a large breadth of areas, including descriptions of maternal-fetal microbial transmission and understanding how the ketogenic diet works to suppress seizures. Some of her most impactful work investigating the influence of the maternal microbiome on fetal brain development have laid the foundation for hypotheses of microbial origins of autism. Additionally, she has advanced our understanding of how microbiota influence serotonin-producing endocrine cells in the gut—research that has the potential to affect our understanding of inflammatory bowel diseases. Hsiao has an exceptional ability to seamlessly translate her basic science into the clinic and her interdisciplinary research resides at the cutting edge of GI research.

Rare Diseases

In October 2020, Takeda Pharmaceuticals in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences celebrated the Winners at a virtual Ceremony and Symposium. Scientific luminaries and industry leaders convened to recognize progress in rare diseases.

Senior Scientist Winner

Adrian R. Krainer, PhD
St. Giles Foundation Professor
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Prof. Adrian Krainer is recognized for his outstanding research on the mechanisms and control of RNA splicing, a step in the normal process by which the information in DNA is converted into proteins. Prof. Krainer studied a splicing defect in patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a devastating, inherited pediatric neuromuscular disorder caused by loss of motor neurons, resulting in progressive muscle atrophy and eventually death. His lab elucidated regulatory mechanisms controlling SMN2, a gene that is incorrectly spliced in SMA. Then, in collaboration with scientists at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, they developed a novel antisense oligonucleotide that is effective in correcting SMN2 splicing, thus increasing the levels of SMN, a protein required for motor-neuron survival. This antisense oligonucleotide—nusinersen (Spinraza)—was approved by the US FDA in December 2016, and subsequently in over 50 additional countries. Spinraza was the first drug approved for the treatment of SMA, the first approved drug to correct a splicing defect, and also the first drug for an inherited neurodegenerative disorder that can delay and even prevent disease onset. More than 10,000 patients have received Spinraza to date, and it is expected that thousands more will be treated each year. Prof. Krainer received the 2019 Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize, shared with Frank Bennett, his collaborator at Ionis Pharmaceuticals. He was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences.

Early-Career Scientist Winner

Jeong Ho Lee, MD, PhD
Associate Professor/KAIST Endowed Chair Professor
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

Director
National Creative Research Initiative Center for Brain Somatic Mutations

Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer
SoVarGen

Prof. Jeong Ho Lee is recognized for his research investigating genetic mutations occurring in a subset of cells in the body, a phenomenon referred to as somatic mosaicism. Particularly, Prof. Lee studies the genetic mutations in stem cells in the brain that result in rare developmental brain disorders. These rare mutations can cause dysfunction of the entire brain, resulting in epilepsy and tumor formation. Prof. Lee has identified the genes responsible for several developmental brain disorders including focal cortical dysplasia, Joubert syndrome—a disorder characterized by an underdevelopment of the brainstem—and hemimegalencephaly, which is the abnormal enlargement of one side of the brain. Fundamental knowledge of the genetic basis for these disorders in humans is a necessary first step toward the development of potential new treatments and diagnostic tools. His work has also influenced scientific thinking about tumorigenesis and has helped lay the foundation for studying somatic mosaicism in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Prof. Lee has been recognized by numerous awards, including the KAISTian of the Year in 2018, the Suh Kyungbae Science Foundation (SUHF) Investigator 2018, KAIST’s Top 10 Research Accomplishments of 2018 and 2016, the Wunch Medical Award (Young Medical Scientist) of the Korean Medical Association & Boehringer Ingelheim 2016, the Pediatric Epilepsies Award of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) 2015, and the Asan Medical Award (Young Scientist) from the Asan Foundation in 2013.

Regenerative Medicine

In April 2019, Takeda Pharmaceuticals in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences celebrated the Winners at a medal ceremony in Tokyo, Japan. Scientific luminaries and industry leaders convened at The Peninsula Tokyo to recognize progress in regenerative medicine.

Senior Scientist Winner

Michele De Luca, MD

Full Professor of Biochemistry
Director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine “Stefano Ferrari”
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Dr. Michele De Luca is recognized for his outstanding research on identifying stem cell behaviors and, together with collaborator Dr. Graziella Pellegrini, developing techniques that enable expansion and transplantation of epithelial tissue. Utilizing a groundbreaking combination of epithelial stem cell culture and retroviral mediated gene therapy, Dr. De Luca’s latest advancements resulted in extensive skin repair and most recently in total skin replacement of a young patient, curing the child of a life threatening disease. Dr. De Luca’s research provides unprecedented insight into epithelial stem cell regulation by identifying a self-renewing, long-lived population capable of regenerating the entire epidermis. His discoveries have positively affected the lives of many with debilitating and life-threatening conditions and will have significant impact on the development of therapies for wound healing and treatments for genetic diseases affecting squamous epithelia. Dr. De Luca is the recipient of the ISSCR Innovation Award, International Prize ‘‘Lombardia è ricerca”, Kazemi Award for Research Excellence in Bio-Medicine, Eurordis Black Pearl Award (2018), and ISSCR Public Service Award (2014). He is an elected member of EMBO and Accademia dei Lincei, the highest cultural institution in Italy.

Early-Career Scientist Winner

Shruti Naik, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pathology, Medicine and Dermatology
NYU School of Medicine
New York University

Dr. Shruti Naik is recognized for her work on understanding the contributions of immune cells, epithelial cells, and microbes to skin health, healing, and disease. Her research has revealed a new property of epithelial stem cells that has changed our understanding of how the skin responds to injury. Dr. Naik discovered that exposure to stressors such as injury or irritants produces an inflammatory ‘memory’ through genetic modifications to epithelial stem cells that enable them to respond more robustly to subsequent insult—a property previously thought to be restricted to cells of the immune system. This conceptually groundbreaking discovery has influenced the field’s understanding of inflammatory responses of the skin, gut, and lung and can be used to inform the development of better wound healing and cancer therapies. Dr. Naik has received numerous awards including the NIH Women’s Scholars Award, the Regeneron Award for Creative Innovation, the L’Oréal for Women in Science Award, the Damon Runyon Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists, the Sartorius and Science Prize Finalist for Regenerative Medicine and Cell Therapy, the Tri-Institution Breakout Award and the Blavatnik Award for Junior Scientists.