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Pardis Christine Sabeti, Professor at the Center for Systems Biology & Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, will receive the 2017 Richard Lounsbery Award.
A geneticist-virologist with a passion for global health, Sabeti’s groundbreaking contributions include the development of new methods to study evolutionary selection in humans and viruses; the creation of new collaborative models for combatting emerging diseases across disciplinary and national borders; and leadership of global efforts to increase data sharing in pandemics, including Ebola and Lassa Fever.
Her early work created a number of statistical tests based on genetic diversity and haplotype structure which can be used to scan the entire human genome for examples of beneficial adaptive variation. These led to the identification of hundreds of genetic loci with evidence of recent natural selection in populations on three continents, and uncovered adaptation for lactose tolerance, thermoregulation and resistance to infectious diseases.
Sabeti’s work also targeted the genetics of malaria, examining the genomic variations in the malaria parasite around the world and identifying loci under natural selection and driving resistance to anti-malarial drugs.
Most recently, Sabeti and her colleagues have published landmark genomic studies of Ebola and Lassa virus. Her team’s breakthrough 2014 paper in Science confirmed that the Ebola virus had spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone, indicated that human-to-human transmission was sustaining the outbreak, and elucidated specific transmission events. Their work revealed where and how fast mutations were occurring, information fundamental to designing effective diagnostics, vaccines and antibody-based therapies. The efforts continue alongside the African Center of Excellence of Genomics of Infectious Disease, an organization she and her partners launched in 2014 to enhance education and research capacity in Africa.
Sabeti was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in 2015, serves on the faculty of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and is an Institute Member at the Broad Institute.
The Richard Lounsbery Award is a $50,000 prize given in alternate years to young French and American scientists to recognize extraordinary scientific achievement in biology and medicine. It is administered in alternate years by the National Academy of Sciences and the French Académie des Sciences. In addition to honoring scientific excellence, the award is intended to stimulate research and encourage reciprocal scientific exchanges between the United States and France. The Richard Lounsbery Award was established by Vera Lounsbery in honor of her husband, Richard Lounsbery, and is supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.