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May 4,  2011

National Academy of Sciences Elects Emory Genetics Leader

News Article ImageStephen T. Warren. Download larger version.

Stephen T. Warren, PhD, William Patterson Timmie Professor and chair, Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his excellence in original scientific research. Warren is also Charles H. Candler chair in human genetics and a professor of biochemistry and pediatrics at Emory.  

Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States. Warren will be inducted into the Academy next April during its 149th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.  

Warren, elected along with 71 others, brings the number of Emory faculty elected to NAS to four. There are currently just over 2,000 active NAS members. NAS members have included luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 living Academy members have won Nobel Prizes.  

“Steve Warren’s pioneering scientific discoveries in the field of human genetics have led to revolutionary advances in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with fragile X syndrome,” says Thomas J. Lawley, MD, dean of Emory University School of Medicine. “His work has made a tremendous difference in the lives of these patients and their families. It is the rare scientist indeed whose research leads from the most basic laboratory breakthroughs for an extremely challenging disease to a promising treatment within his or her lifetime. I am extremely proud that Dr. Warren is a member of our Emory medical faculty.”  

Warren is renowned for his groundbreaking genetic discoveries, including the identification of “triplet repeat expansion” as the cause of fragile X syndrome and as an entirely new inheritance mechanism of genetic disease. Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent inherited cause of intellectual disability.  

In 1991 Warren led an international research team that discovered the FMR1 gene, which is responsible for fragile X syndrome. In 1993 his team characterized FMRP, the protein expressed by FMR1, and learned that fragile X syndrome occurs when the FMR1 gene does not produce the FMRP protein. 

Warren and his colleagues developed a diagnostic test for fragile X syndrome and have since made additional discoveries about how the genetic mutation affects “downstream” proteins in the brain that negatively affect development and behavior. Through a widespread screening process, Warren and other scientists have recently identified potential drug treatments for fragile X syndrome that currently are being tested in a variety of clinical trials.  

After joining the Emory School of Medicine faculty in 1985, Warren became founding chair of the Department of Human Genetics in 2001. Under his leadership the department has expanded from five to 40 full-time faculty members, including clinical faculty in the Division of Medical Genetics.  

Warren received his PhD in human genetics from Michigan State University in 1981. He was a fellow at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a visiting scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. In 1991 he was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute associate investigator, and was promoted to full investigator in 1995. He is certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics in clinical cytogenetics and clinical molecular genetics. He is a founding fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics and currently serves on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Institute of Mental Health.  

Warren was selected for the National Institutes of Health Hall of Honor in 2003 and was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2004. He has served as president of the American Society of Human Genetics (2006) and as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Human Genetics (1999-2005).  

His numerous awards include a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health, the William Rosen Research Award from the National Fragile X Foundation, the William Allan Award from the American Society of Human Genetics, the Norman Saunders International Research Prize from Jacob’s Ladder, the Michigan State University Outstanding Alumni Award, the Brandwein Award in Genetic Research and the “Champion for Babies” award from the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Neurology “Frontiers in Clinical Neuroscience” award, and the March of Dimes Brandwein Award in Genetic Research, the “Champion for Babies” award, and the March of Dimes/Colonel Harland Sanders Lifetime Achievement Award.    

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the NAS has served to “investigate, examine, experiment and report upon any subject of science or art” whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.  

For more information, or for the full list of newly elected members, visit NAS online.

Originally posted May 3, 2011

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