Lasker Foundation Awards Laud Achievements in Genetics, Cancer, and Ebola Response

While significant scientific breakthroughs can be rewarding in their own right, celebrating critical advances in disease research through award nominations is a wonderful and important tradition within the scientific community. The Lasker Awards, established and endowed in 1945 by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, are one of the most prestigious of these celebrations in the United States, honoring advances made in basic research, clinical medicine, and public service. In particular, they serve not only as an opportunity to applaud the tireless and ingenious efforts of field leaders for their outstanding medical research and service, but also as a call-to-arms those in the biomedical sciences. They are a reminder that there is still much left to understand about a host of diseases and disabilities that affect the lives of so many individuals, within the United States as well as globally. That was indeed the awards’ original purpose, as the Lasker family brought them into existence in the wake of World War II to invigorate both immediate and long-term interest and financial investment from the general public and the U.S. government in cutting-edge medical research.

Albert Lasker. (Library of Congress)
Albert Lasker. (Library of Congress)
Mary Lasker. (Library of Congress)
Mary Lasker. (Library of Congress)

Albert and Mary Lasker were relentless in their efforts to engage the country in the fight for increased research efforts and funding. Together they reorganized and revitalized the group that would become the American Cancer Society (ACS), and they were incredibly instrumental in substantially expanding the activities and finances of the National Institutes of Health throughout their lifetimes. After Albert’s death in 1952 due to colon cancer, Mary continued to be a passionate patron of medical research, holding leadership positions in a dozen prominent healthcare societies and organizations—including the ACS and Planned Parenthood Foundation— and contributing to the implementation of President Richard Nixon’s War on Cancer. Her decades-spanning commitment to medical research advocacy and philanthropy earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1989. Upon her death, she left over $10 million dollars to the Lasker Foundation, ensuring that her legacy of championing disease research and public health would continue.

The tenacity and passion of Albert and Mary Lasker for medical research and outreach are reflected in the recipients of their foundation’s awards, as Lasker laureates are exceptional leaders in their fields. Indeed, over eighty Lasker Award recipients have also gone on to be awarded a Nobel Prize, forty-four of them within the last three decades. This year’s laureates are no exception to this trend of excellence.

2015 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award winner Evelyn M. Witkin. (Jane Gitschier/Rutegers Today)
2015 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award winner Evelyn M. Witkin. (Jane Gitschier/Rutegers Today)
Stephen J. Elledge. (Emmanuel Ording/The Boston Globe)
2015 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award winner Stephen J. Elledge. (Emmanuel Ording/The Boston Globe)

The Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award was bestowed upon two recipients in 2015—Dr. Evelyn Witkin of Rutgers University and Dr. Stephen Elledge of Brigham and Women’s Hospital—for advances made in understanding bacterial and eukaryotic DNA damage repair. Dr. Witkin’s work began in 1944 when, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, she uncovered a radiation-resistant strain of Escherichia coli while investigating the effects of ultraviolet light on impeding bacterial cell division. One summer’s worth of work ignited an entire career, as she pursued studying DNA mutagenesis and subsequently DNA damage repair over numerous decades. Her work, in conjunction with that of Dr. Miroslav Radman, led to the discovery and characterization of the SOS response, a broad, error-prone DNA damage response in bacteria that promotes both repair and mutagenesis and is mediated by the proteins RecA and LexA. Like Witkin, Dr. Elledge has made astounding impacts in the biomedical research community due to his work on DNA damage response mechanisms, but in the eukaryotic system. Initially he studied how DNA synthesis and damage repair pathways interacted in yeast, and these findings eventually led him to investigations regarding the ATM-mediated damage response. Significantly, he discovered how ATR detects DNA damage and initiates the subsequent response cascade; he continues to investigate the complexity of these pathways, as well as a host of other topics related to DNA and cell cycle maintenance.

James Allison. (Lasker Foundation)
2015 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Award
Winner James Allison. (Lasker Foundation)

Dr. James Allison of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was bestowed with the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award this year for his development of a monoclonal antibody that stimulates tumor detection by the immune system. His work delineating the role of the protein receptor CTLA-4 in T-cell proliferation and as an antagonist to CD28-mediated T-cell activation led him to cancer immunotherapy research. He proposed that blocking CTLA-4 suppression of T-cell response would allow the immune system to detect tumors it previously ignored. Initial success in mouse models—where an anti-CTLA-4 antibody spurred tumor rejection—led Allison to pursue advancing this treatment to clinical trials. Over a decade later, the human anti-CTLA-4 antibody, termed ipilmumab, was approved by the FDA in 2011 for treatment of late-stage melanoma. This type of immune therapy is a radical one, as it triggers a general immune response instead of targeting tumor-specific markers, and thus has promising potential to be a treatment option for multiple types of cancer.

Medecins Sans Frontieres International President Joanne Liu, with healthcare worker. (P.K. Lee/Doctors Without Borders)
Joanne Liu, International President of Doctors without Borders (MSF), with a member of the MSF team in Sierra Leone.
(P.K. Lee/Doctors Without Borders)
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Logo. (Doctors Without Borders)
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Logo. (Doctors Without Borders)

In 2015, the recipient of the Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award was not an individual, but rather an organization. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders) was commended for their tremendous response to the Ebola outbreaks in Africa last year. Members of MSF were on the ground from day one, serving as leaders in disease treatment and containment as well as pillars of patient and community support despite facing immense challenges on a local, national, and global scale. Even after the most significant outbreaks subsided, MSF continued their efforts through advocacy for programs and support that will aid and improve response efficacy to future epidemics.

No doubt this year’s award laureates will continue to change the face of medicine in the years to come and also inspire future medical researchers and advocates to do the same.

On the Shelf (October 2015)

For work…

Advances in Applied Microbiology
Advances in Applied Microbiology
Advances in Genetics
Advances in Genetics
Advances in Cancer Research
Advances in Cancer Research

Book Series: Advances in…

Location: Electronic

Released on a quarterly basis, the Advances in… series publish comprehensive reviews on current topics in various fields. The library currently receives several titles, including: Advances in Applied Microbiology, Advances in Cancer Research, Advances in Drug Research, and Advances in Genetics. Browse the ScienceDirect e-book series for available titles:

And leisure…

Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee

Location: HHSL Leisure Reading Fiction L477g

This companion novel to To Kill a Mockingbird was published this past summer amidst controversy surrounding its discovery and contrary reviews. Now you can read it for yourself. Two copies available in the leisure reading section located on Sackler 4.

-Laura Pavlech

PubMed Tip of the Month: Using MeSH Headings (October 2015)

Including MeSH terms in a PubMed search can help you get more precise results.

What is MeSH? Most of the more than 25 million citations in PubMed come from MEDLINE, the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) journal citation database. Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) is a controlled vocabulary of standardized terms that indexers (actual humans!) apply to each article in MEDLINE to describe the publication type and topics covered in the article.

Why should you care about MeSH? Biomedical topics are often expressed in different ways. For example, chronic kidney disease may also be called end-stage renal disease, chronic renal failure, or abbreviated as ESRD. The MeSH term for this condition is kidney failure, chronic. Using MeSH terms in a PubMed search helps you find articles regardless of how an author referred to that topic. MeSH terms also allow you to search on all concepts in a broad category without having to enter every term. MeSH headings are arranged in a hierarchy of broader and narrower terms; when you search a broader term, all the narrower terms are automatically included in your search. For example, the MeSH term for cancer, neoplasms, can be used to search for all types of cancer.

How do I find MeSH terms? When you conduct a search in PubMed, the database will try to match your terms to MeSH headings in a process called automatic term mapping. To see how the PubMed translated your search, look for a box labeled ‘Search Details’ in the right column on the results page (you will need to scroll down the page). You can also search the MeSH database directly by choosing ‘MeSH’ from the dropdown menu to the left of the PubMed search box. See this example of the term meningitis in the MeSH database:

Need help with MeSH? Contact me at or 617-636-0385.

-Laura Pavlech

Notes from the Library… (October 2015)

Whether orientation is a recent or distant memory, here are a few tips on the resources and spaces available at the library:

Finding Books at Tufts: We have a lot of books, both in print and electronically. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find these books. When you want to know whether or not the library has a specific book, search the library catalog ( by title, author or course reserves (a few books are on reserve for Sackler courses). If a book is located at another Tufts library, then you can request that it be delivered to the Hirsh Health Sciences Library by clicking the ‘Request Item’ button at the top of the catalog record. You will be notified when the book is ready for you retrieve at our library. While e-books will appear in the library catalog, you can also browse our e-book collections (

Book not Available at Tufts? Search WorldCat (, a global catalog of library collections. You can request that books available at Boston Library Consortium libraries be delivered to our library at no charge. For more information on requesting books, book chapters and journal articles from non-Tufts libraries, see:

Study Rooms: Study rooms are located on the 5th, 6th and 7th floors of the Sackler building. Study rooms on the 5th floor may be reserved for groups of two or more people. Study rooms on the other two floors are available on a first come, first served basis with precedence given to groups. To make a reservation for the 5th floor study room, see:

Computers: Public computers are located on the 4th and 5th floors of Sackler. In addition, two computer labs, also located on the 5th floor, are available for use when not occupied by a class. Laptops, both Macs and PCs, are available for check out at the Library Service Desk. Software installed on library computers includes: Adobe products (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, etc.), MatLab, SAS, SPSS and Stata. Complete list of software on library computers:

Software: Visit the Tufts Technology Services Help Desk on the 5th floor of Sackler to get software installed on your personal computer. Complete list of available software: Unfortunately, Adobe software is not available for installation on students’ personal computers, and Adobe only offers a student discount on their Creative Cloud Complete package. Online library of video tutorials that teach software, creative and business skills, including beginner to advanced Illustrator, R, Tableau, SPSS. Tufts Technology Services recently acquired a license that allows Tufts students, faculty and staff unlimited access to Free apps for iOS and Android devices allow you to watch videos on your mobile device. To access, go to:, click the ‘Login’ button and sign in with your Tufts username and password.

-Laura Pavlech

On the Shelf (August 2015)

For work…

qualitybydesign_cover_aug2015newsletterQuality by Design for Biopharmaceutical Drug Product Development, Jameel Feroz, Susan Hershenson, Mansoor A. Khan, Sheryl Martin-Moe (editors)

Location: Electronic (

From the publisher: “Provides an authoritative, detailed and clear explanation of QbD [Quality by Design] principles and its applications/implications for the development and commercialization of biopharmaceutical drug product for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Demonstrates how QbD is used for formulation development ranging from screening of formulations, to developability assessment, to development of lyophilized and liquid formats.”

And leisure…

wrongplace_rich_cover_aug2015newsletterWrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men, by John A. Rich

Location: On order for Hirsh Health Sciences Library

Each year, Tufts University School of Medicine and Tisch College choose a Common Book for incoming medical students. This year’s selection, Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men, is authored by John Rich, Professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health and former medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission. Dr. Rich also worked as a primary care physician at Boston Medical Center, where he created and directed the Young Men’s Health Clinic. An author presentation and discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7th from 1-2 PM in the Sackler Auditorium. Multiple copies of this book are on order for the Hirsh Health Sciences Library, so check the library catalog.

actsoffaith_patel_cover_aug2015newsletterActs of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, by Eboo Patel

Location: HHSL Book Stacks E 184 M88 P38 2010

A Common Book is also selected for the incoming undergraduate students. Multiple copies of this year’s selection are currently available at the library.

-Laura Pavlech

PubMed Tip of the Month (August 2015) Use the ‘PubMed@Tufts’ link to access PubMed from either on or off campus. This will enable you to easily access full text articles available through Tufts Libraries. When you wish to access the full text of an article in PubMed, click on the title of the article and look for the blue ‘Find It@Tufts’ button at the top of the column on the right side of the page. This will either bring you directly to the article or to a page where you can search for the journal in our library catalog.

-Laura Pavlech

Notes from the Library… (August 2015)

lauraPavlech-253x300Hello! I am the new liaison librarian to the Sackler School, Laura Pavlech. I joined Hirsh Health Sciences Library in May of this year. I am excited to return to Tufts, where I attended veterinary school, and work with the health sciences students, faculty and staff. You may be wondering what a librarian can do for you. I think of my job as helping people find, organize and use the resources available to them at Tufts and beyond… here are a few examples of the types of questions that I can answer:

  • Find journal articles: Whether you are investigating a new topic or preparing to write the introduction section of your thesis, I can help you choose which databases to use, and construct a good search strategy.
  • Find protocols & methods: Have you been asked to use a technique about which you know nothing? I can show you where to find books, journals and videos devoted to in-depth descriptions of scientific protocols and methods.
  • Find chemical & drug information: Want to find property data, similar molecules or patents for a chemical compound? I can direct you to the best resources for chemical and drug information, and teach you how to search these resources.
  • Find data & health statistics: Do you need to find a data set to utilize in your research, or health statistics to support a grant proposal? I can assist you in locating publicly available data sets and health statistics.
  • Organize your citations: Learn how to use a citation manager, such as EndNote or RefWorks, to store references and journal articles, and insert formatted citations into Word documents.
  • Establish your research identity: I can show you how to find journal Impact Factors, citation counts, and other metrics that can help you demonstrate the impact of your work to funders and prospective employers.
  • Maintain compliance with funder public access policies: What are public access policies, does my funder have a public access policy, and when I publish, what do I need to do to comply with these policies?

There is a lot of information out there and more is being created every day. Part of becoming a good scientist is learning how to find and use the information that you need in an efficient and effective manner. I (hopefully!) can help you do that:

  • Office hours: Beginning August 31st, I will have weekly office hours for which you can either schedule an appointment or just drop by. My office is located on 6th floor of the Sackler building.
  • Scheduled consultations: You can contact me via phone (617-636-0385) or email ( to schedule an appointment at a time that is convenient for you.
  • Research guides: The library has several research guides that can direct you to the resources that you need, and may also help you answer some of the questions I described above. Check out the Biomedical Sciences Research Guide (, or the complete list of guides (