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Harvard’s Christine Seidman to receive 2019 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science

Apr. 15, 2019, 11:07 AM

by Bill Snyder

Christine Seidman, MD, whose lab has identified the genetic causes of several human heart diseases including cardiomyopathy (potentially fatal enlargement of the heart), is the recipient of the 2019 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science, officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) announced today.

Christine Seidman, MD

Seidman is the Thomas W. Smith Professor in Medicine and Genetics at the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a senior associate at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

She is the 14th recipient of the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science. Established in 2006 by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), the prize honors women scientists with a stellar record of research accomplishments who have made significant contributions to mentoring other women in science.

“Dr. Seidman’s remarkable commitment to understanding genetic causes of human heart diseases has improved diagnosis and therapies and is making a lasting impact on medicine as well as the lives of patients,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of VUSM.

“Her career is a sterling example of advancement not only in science, but also of the women and men striving to learn and discover,” Balser said. “I’m honored to congratulate her as the 2019 Vanderbilt Prize recipient.”

Prize winners receive an honorarium, present a special seminar as part of the Flexner Discovery Lecture series and mentor a Vanderbilt Prize Scholar, a woman who is pursuing graduate studies in the biomedical sciences in the School of Medicine.

Seidman will receive her prize on Sept. 12, when she is scheduled to give her Flexner Discovery Lecture at Vanderbilt.

“Dr. Seidman’s discoveries of the genetic causes for cardiovascular diseases, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, have yielded answers to what were previously medical mysteries,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, VUMC Executive Vice President for Research, director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology.

“Subsequent research in her lab has identified small molecules that show promise of being targeted therapies for genetically-driven forms of heart failure,” Pietenpol said. “She has been and continues to be a pioneer in cardiovascular research. She is an internationally respected scientist and physician.”

“I am grateful for this high honor, but humbled to be among the amazing prior recipients of this incredible award,” Seidman said. “I truly look forward to celebrating Vanderbilt’s recognition of all women in scientist next fall.”

Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Seidman received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Harvard University and medical degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

After completing her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, she served as a guest scientist in Human and Reproductive Biology at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and later as clinical and research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard.

Seidman joined the Harvard faculty in 1986 as a lecturer in Genetics, rising to full professor of Medicine and Genetics in 1997-1998. Since 1992 she has directed the Cardiovascular Genetics Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She also is a member of the Harvard Institute of Human Genetics.

Seidman is the author or co-author of more than 400 scientific publications and is senior associate editor of the journal Circulation Research.

She is a member of several professional organizations including the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. Seidman is a former president of the Association of American Physicians.

Her honors include the Joseph A. Vita Award and Basic Research Prize from the American Heart Association and, with her husband and colleague Jonathan Seidman, PhD, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cardiovascular Research and the Scientific Grand Prize of the Lefoulon-Delalande Foundation – Institute of France.

Seidman’s research aims to define the genetic mechanisms for human heart disease and to use these insights to improve diagnostic precision and effective therapies.

To achieve these goals, her lab analyzes the physiologic, biochemical and molecular signals evoked by human mutations in patients, mouse models and in cardiac muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).

Major discoveries have included identification of the genetic causes for hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathy and congenital heart malformations such as atrial and septal defects and the tetralogy of Fallot, the most common form of cyanotic heart disease.

In collaboration with the Cardiovascular Genetics Center, Seidman and her colleagues translate basic research discoveries into gene-based diagnostic approaches to improve management strategies while they explore novel therapeutic targets.

Current investigations focus on integrating transcriptional and functional analyses to uncover how different mutations in the same gene elicit distinctive disease phenotypes and clinical outcomes.

Seidman has also played a leadership role in supporting women scientists. She has supervised the training of more than 50 young scientists, a third of whom are women, and serves as advisor and ad-hoc counselor for cardiovascular fellows and other young physician-scientists at Harvard and nearby institutions.

Over the years, she has served on several committees and task forces at Harvard focused on the advancement and support of women in academic medicine.

For a complete list of Vanderbilt Prize winners, go to the VUMC Office of Research website at www.vumc.org/oor and click on the pull-down menu on the “Research” tab.

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