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Past Winners

2020 Winners

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. To view the eBriefing of the 2020 Innovators in Science Award Symposium, please click here.


Adrian Krainer

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.

Senior Scientist Winner


Adrian R. Krainer, PhD
Jeong Ho Lee

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.

Early-Career Scientist Winner


Jeong Ho Lee, PhD

2019 Winners

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. To view the eBriefing of the 2019 Innovators in Science Award Symposium, please click here.


Michele De Luca

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.

Senior Scientist Winner


Michele De Luca, MD
Shruti Naik

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.

Early-Career Scientist Winner


Shruti Naik, PhD

2017 Winners and Finalists

On November 28, 2017, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences hosted an international cohort of scientists and leaders, from industry and academia, to recognize the inaugural honorees’ achievements in Neuroscience. To view the eBriefing of the 2017 Innovators in Science Award Symposium, please click here.


Past Winners

Senior Scientist Winner

Shigetada Nakanishi, MD, PhD
Director
Suntory Foundation for Life Sciences
Bioorganic Research Institute

Dr. Nakanishi is honored for introducing recombinant DNA techniques to neuroscience to explore the molecular basis of neurotransmitter receptor interactions in neural networks. He developed innovative cloning strategies for membrane embedded transmitter receptors and subsequently identified functional genes encoding NMDA and G-protein coupled glutamate receptors. Dr. Nakanishi is a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, and Member of the Japan Academy.

Senior Scientist Winner


Shigetada Nakanishi, MD, PhD

Early-Career Scientist Winner

Viviana Gradinaru, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering
Caltech

Dr. Gradinaru is honored for developing novel tools for neuroscience to probe the circuits underlying locomotion, reward, and sleep. She developed genetically encoded voltage sensors and actuators from microbial opsins and viral vector screening methods that resulted in capsids capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier for non-invasive brain-wide transduction after systemic delivery. Additionally, Dr. Gradinaru oversees the CLOVER Center, which works to provide training and access to her group’s reagents and methods to the broader research community.

Early-Career Scientist Winner


Viviana Gradinaru, PhD

2017 Finalists

Ben Barres, MD, PhD
Ben Barres, MD, PhD

Stanford University School of Medicine

David Julius, PhD
David Julius, PhD

UC San Francisco

Michael Halassa, MD, PhD
Michael Halassa, MD, PhD

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Nominated whilst at New York University)

Kay Tye, PhD
Kay Tye, PhD

Massachusetts Institue of Technology