Mitochondrial Genetics Pioneer Douglas Wallace Wins Prestigious Research Award

Janet Stewart, MSc avatar

by Janet Stewart, MSc |

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Douglas Wallace, Ph.D., of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, won the 2017 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research for his pioneering work in the field of mitochondrial genetics.

Founder and director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Wallace holds the Michael and Charles Barnett Chair of Pediatric Mitochondrial Medicine and Metabolic Disease. He is also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. And he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and the Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze detta dei XL (Italian National Academy of Science).

Wallace’s research focuses on mitochondrial DNA — the genetic material found in mitochondria, which are the energy-producing parts of cells. This DNA is passed from generation to generation only from mothers. His groundbreaking work has led to many new insights into genealogy, as well as increasing the understanding of the aging process and insights on, and treatments for, a variety diseases, including cancer, and metabolic and degenerative diseases.

“I am honored that such a distinguished committee has selected me to join the list of exceptional past winners of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award,” Wallace said in a press release.

“Of particular importance is that this Award focuses attention on the crucial role of mitochondrial DNA genetics and bioenergetics in the etiology of common metabolic and degenerative diseases. This perspective offers powerful new approaches for diagnosis and treatment of these ubiquitous maladies and thus for enhancing the health and well-being of all peoples,” Wallace said.

Johnson & Johnson created the award in 2004 in memory of Dr. Paul Janssen to honor the work of an active scientist in academia, industry, or a scientific institute who has made a significant, transformational contribution toward the improvement of public health. The winners of the award are chosen by an independent selection committee of renowned scientists from around the world. The award, which includes a $200,000 prize, will be presented to  Wallace during ceremonies in the U.S. and Belgium in September.

To encourage the next generation of innovators in science, Johnson & Johnson will donate $5 — up to a total of $50,000 — to the Biotechnology Institute each time there is a show of support for science through the hashtag #ChampionsofScience on social media channels through Sept. 30, 2017.

Johnson & Johnson also announced it would launch a new yearlong program, called the Dr. Paul Janssen Project, to recognize the impact of science on humanity. The scope of the project will be announced at the Dr. Paul Janssen Award ceremony in September.

“Dr. Wallace’s insatiable curiosity, tenacity, and passion for humanity exemplifies the spirit we hope to fuel by expanding our commitment to champion science through the Dr. Paul Janssen Project,” Seema Kumar, vice president, Innovation, Global Health and Science Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson, said. “This includes our longstanding support of programs like the Biotechnology Institute’s BioGENEius Challenge, that inspire and encourage the next generation of innovators.”