The annual AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award, funded by an endowment established through a generous bequest from Martin L. Wachtel, honors early-career investigators who have performed outstanding work in the field of cancer research. The award winner is invited to deliver a public lecture on his or her research and receives an unrestricted cash award of $25,000. The award winning Essay is published as a Focus article in Science Translational Medicine.
This year's winners are Neville Sanjana, Core Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center and Assistant Professor at New York University, and Ömer Yilmaz, Member of the Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research and Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Drs. Sanjana and Yilmaz will each receive a $12,500 check and will present lectures based on their research at an award ceremony this summer at the National Institutes of Health.
Neville Sanjana is a Core Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center, and an Assistant Professor of Biology at New York University and of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU School of Medicine. Utilizing new technologies for large-scale DNA synthesis, gene editing and next-generation sequencing, Dr. Sanjana has developed pooled screening approaches for functional genomics and applied them to gene regulation, cancer evolution and metastasis, drug resistance, cancer immunotherapy, neurodevelopmental disorders and synthetic biology. Recent work in the Sanjana Lab is focused on creating new genome engineering tools to pinpoint functional elements in the noncoding genome and decipher their regulatory logic. Dr. Sanjana was previously a Simons Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Feng Zhang’s lab at the Broad Institute and MIT, obtained a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from MIT with Dr. Sebastian Seung, and holds a BS in Symbolic Systems and a BA in English Literature from Stanford University. He is a recipient of the Kimmel Scholar Award, the Melanoma Research Alliance Young Investigator Award, the DARPA Young Faculty Award, the NIH Pathway to Independence Award, and the Paul Allen Institute for Brain Science Next Generation Leader Award.
Ömer Yilmaz is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and a gastrointestinal pathologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School, where he performed his thesis work under the guidance of Professor Sean Morrison. He has also spent two years as a visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Professor David M. Sabatini, a member of the Whitehead and Koch Institutes. In 2014 he established his lab, which focuses on understanding how adult stem cells and their microenvironment adapt to diverse diets in the context of tissue regeneration, aging, and cancer initiation. His achievements, to date, have been recognized with a Harold Weintraub Award, Pew-Stewart Trust Fellowship, Sidney Kimmel Fellowship, and a V Scholar Award.