Recipient of the 2017 Seldin~Smith Award: Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD

Dr. Abdel-Wahab

The American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) is pleased to announce Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD, as the recipient of the 2017 Donald Seldin~Holly Smith Award for Pioneering Research. Dr. Abdel-Wahab is an Assistant Member at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he serves as Co-Director of the Hematology/Medical Oncology Fellowship Program in the Department of Medicine.

Dr. Abdel-Wahab will receive an unrestricted award of $30,000 to advance his academic efforts, and he will be recognized on April 22, 2017, as part of the AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting (April 21-23). Dr. Abdel-Wahab will deliver a scientific talk at the 2018 Joint Meeting.

Dr. Abdel-Wahab’s efforts have focused on the discovery and functional characterization of genetic abnormalities in common and rare forms of hematologic malignancies. His laboratory identified the functional effects of mutations in some of the most commonly mutated genes in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). These discoveries have resulted in ongoing clinical trials of novel targeted therapies for patients with MDS, AML, hairy cell leukemia, and histiocytosis.

“One major focus of Omar’s research includes studying the role of altered spliceosomal proteins in leukemia. His work has already advanced our understanding of this basic biological function and its alteration in cancer,” Ross L. Levine, MD, wrote in his letter supporting Dr. Abdel-Wahab’s nomination. “In addition to his seminal work in the MDS field relating to aberrant splicing, Omar helped to define the cell-of-origin of hairy cell leukemia, a question that has been debated for decades. More recently, he has helped to define the clinical efficacy and mechanisms of vemurafenib resistance in hairy cell leukemia. His insight, knowledge, and technical skills are incredibly advanced for a young investigator.”

Development of the Seldin~Smith Award began with the goal of connecting the legacies of two iconic figures in medicine — Donald Seldin (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) and Lloyd “Holly” Smith Jr. (University of California, San Francisco) — with exceptionally creative early-career physician-scientists. The ASCI is grateful to Drs. Seldin and Smith, who provided the inspiration for this Award through their storied careers of developing generations of outstanding physician-scientists.

Dr. Abdel-Wahab was selected from a group of exceptional nominees in the United States and abroad. The applicants were evaluated by a Selection Committee of current and former ASCI presidents: Mukesh K. Jain (Chair), Vivian G. Cheung, Charles L. Sawyers, Elizabeth M. McNally, and Stuart H. Orkin. Finalists were evaluated by an Advisory Committee comprising five physician-scientist luminaries: Joseph L. Goldstein (Chair), Michael S. Brown, Arthur Weiss, Stanley B. Prusiner, and Robert J. Lefkowitz.

The Seldin~Smith Award complements two prestigious ASCI awards (the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award and the Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine) that recognize senior physician-scientists who have made major contributions to science, mentorship, and translation of discovery to clinical impact.

About the ASCI: Founded in 1908, the American Society for Clinical Investigation is one of the oldest and most esteemed nonprofit honor societies of physician-scientists. Membership is by election only, and only researchers who are 50 years of age or younger are eligible for nomination. Therefore, membership in the ASCI recognizes a researcher’s significant contributions, at a relatively young age, to the understanding of human disease. The Society counts among its ranks over 3,000 members, many of whom are leaders in academic medicine and industry. Many members have been recognized by election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Medicine. The ASCI is also proud to have among its membership winners of the Nobel Prize and the Lasker Award. The Society self-publishes the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation, a top-tier biomedical journal, and JCI Insight, launched in late 2015. The ASCI holds its annual meeting with the Association of American Physicians and the American Physician-Scientists Association.