JCI Editor at Large Ushma S. Neill interviews the geneticist, innovator, and entrepreneur George Church, of Harvard and MIT. Dr. Church developed the methods for the first genome sequencing, and his subsequent work has brought down the price of sequencing over 10-million-fold. His was one of the two research groups that first got CRISPR/Cas9 to work for precise gene editing in human cells by a homologous recombination, and he has been behind countless other scientific innovations and disruptions, specifically in the world of precision genome sequencing.
Neurobiologist Carla Shatz, director of Stanford University Bio-X, has focused her research on how early brain circuits are transformed into adult connections during critical periods of development. Her work, which focuses on the development of the mammalian visual system, has relevance not only for treating disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, but also for understanding how the nervous and immune systems interact. This interview provides insights about what you can you learn from ski racing and how she got inspired to study neuroscience after her grandmother’s stroke.
How are behavioral decisions modified by context and experience? Cornelia Bargmann of Rockefeller University has made this her life’s work, exploring the intersection between genes, the environment, and the nervous system in the roundworm, C. elegans. Bargmann is also seeking to help cure, manage, and prevent all disease by the year 2100 by serving as Head of Science for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Charles Sawyers of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has defined the molecular lesions that cause cancer and used these insights to develop new drugs. Specifically, Sawyers was one of the critical members of the team that brought imatinib and dasatinib to bear on chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Furthermore, his work has identified second-generation antiandrogen drugs to treat castration-resistant prostate cancer. This interview reveals personal stories of a physician-scientist called “the greatest cancer researcher of our time” by one of his peers.
The combined efforts of Doug Lowy and John Schiller form the basis of the biology behind the vaccines for HPV (human papillomavirus), which underlies cervical cancers as well as oropharyngeal cancers. With widespread uptake, these vaccines have the potential to wipe out these cancers in a generation. The JCI spoke with Schiller and Lowy from the National Cancer Institute when they were in New York City to collect the 2017 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.