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Noted Biologist David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D., To Receive Pitt’s Dickson Prize in Medicine at Science 2017

PITTSBURGH, July 14, 2017 – A researcher who discovered a key cellular regulatory metabolic pathway known as mTOR and whose subsequent research has revealed several roles that individual proteins in this pathway play in cancer, diabetes and aging will receive the University of Pittsburgh’s 2017 Dickson Prize in Medicine.
David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D., will accept the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s most prestigious honor during Science 2017, a showcase of the region’s latest research in science, engineering, medicine and computation that will be held from Oct. 18 to 20 at Alumni Hall in Oakland and at the adjacent Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center. Dr. Sabatini is a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a senior associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. He also is a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
“Dr. Sabatini is an extraordinarily innovative and imaginative scientist,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “His seminal discoveries concerning the mTOR pathway came when he was a 24-year-old medical student researcher. In the years since then, he has been a leader in identifying fundamental molecular mechanisms in human biology and elucidating the molecular basis of human disease.”
Dr. Sabatini and his lab at the Whitehead Institute study the basic mechanisms that regulate cell growth, the process whereby cells and organisms accumulate mass and increase in size. These pathways are often disordered in human diseases. Since the discovery of the regulatory metabolic pathway known as mTOR (for mechanistic target of rapamycin), work in Dr. Sabatini’s lab has led to the identification of many components of the pathway and to an understanding of their cellular and organismal functions.
Dr. Sabatini also is interested in the role of metabolism in cancer and in the mechanisms that control the effects of dietary restriction on tumorigenesis. In addition to the work on growth control and cancer, Dr. Sabatini’s lab has developed and is using new technologies that facilitate the analysis of gene function in mammalian cells. The lab developed “cell-based microarrays” that allow one to examine the cellular effects of perturbing the activity of thousands of genes in parallel. Dr. Sabatini is a founding member of the RNAi Consortium of labs in the Boston area that is developing and using genome-scale RNA interference (RNAi) libraries targeting human and mouse genes.
At 11 a.m., Friday, Oct. 20, Dr. Sabatini will deliver the Dickson Prize in Medicine Lecture. His talk is titled, “Regulation of Growth by the mTOR Pathway.”
Dr. Sabatini’s honors include being named a W. M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar and a Pew Scholar. He has received numerous awards, including the 2009 Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, the 2013 Feodor Lynen Award from Nature, and the 2014 National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology. In May, he was awarded the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Sabatini received his bachelor of science degree from Brown University and earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Johns Hopkins University in 1997. That year, he joined the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research as a fellow; five years later, he was named a member of that institute and joined the faculty of MIT. In 2015, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
In addition to Dr. Sabatini, three other renowned researchers will deliver plenary lectures at Science 2017:
• The Mellon Lecture will be given by James P. Allison, Ph.D., a pioneering immunologist from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who was one of the first scientists to identify the T cell receptor.
• The Hofmann Lecture will be given by Lynne Maquat, Ph.D., an award-winning professor of biochemistry and biophysics from the University of Rochester who studies RNA decay pathways.
• The Provost Lecture will be given by Terrence Sejnowski, Ph.D., a computational neuroscientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute who seeks to understand the principles that link brain to behavior.

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