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UC alum wins Lasker Prize for medical research

C. David Allis was recognized for his groundbreaking work in epigenetics

A University of Cincinnati alumnus won this year’s Lasker Award, America’s top prize for biomedical research.

C. David Allis grew up in Cincinnati and is a 1973 graduate of UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, where he studied biological sciences. He is a professor at the Rockefeller University in New York.

Allis, 67, was recognized for his work examining proteins called histones that make up chromosomes. Allis has spent his career studying the role that epigenetics plays in diseases such as cancer. Epigenetics is the study of the modification of gene expression.

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced its award on Tuesday. The foundation created the awards in 1945 to honor fundamental biological discoveries and clinical advances that improve human health.

My hope is that these insights will ultimately help people live healthier lives.

UC graduate C. David Allis

Allis was the recipient of the Lasker Award in basic medical research, which he shares with researcher Michael Grunstein of the University of California, Los Angeles. The award is given to researchers whose fundamental discoveries open up a new area of biomedical science.

“I am humbled and honored to be a co-recipient of the 2018 Lasker Basic Medical Research Award,” Allis said in his acceptance remarks to the research journal Cell. “Doing science is interesting, fundamentally important and richly rewarding.

“My hope is that these insights will ultimately help people live healthier lives.”


UC graduate C. David Allis stands smiling in front of a whiteboard depicting a model of chromosomes.

UC graduate C. David Allis is the 2018 co-recipient of the Lasker Prize. Photo/Lasker Foundation

Professor Theresa Culley, head of UC’s Department of Biological Sciences, said the award reflects well on Allis and his alma mater.

“As a department we’re extremely proud of Dr. Allis and the work that he’s done,” she said.

“This is a nod to his notable accomplishments in the field of epigenetics,” Culley said. “Dr. Allis' groundbreaking research has revealed the role of chromatin in how DNA expression can be modified within cells, with major implications for diseases such as cancer.”

UC graduate C. David Allis laughs with two students in a lab.

UC graduate C. David Allis is a professor at the Rockefeller University in New York. Photo/Lasker Foundation

Culley noted that Allis graduated summa cum laude from UC.

"This award to Dr. Allis highlights the importance and quality of undergraduate education in the arts and sciences at UC,” Culley said. “We are excited to celebrate this notable achievement with him.”

Two distinguished UC College of Medicine professors have also been awarded the Lasker Prize over the years:

•Dr. Albert Sabin developed an oral vaccine for polio.

•Nobel Prize nominee Elwood V. Jensen was recognized for his lifesaving work in breast cancer research.

Many recipients of the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Winners are chosen by an international jury of scientists.

The foundation on Tuesday also honored AstraZeneca researcher John B. Glen, who developed the anesthetic propofol, and Joan A. Steitz of Yale University for her work in RNA biology.


Featured image above: A researcher prepares a culture in a lab. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC



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