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Shilatifard Receives Walder Research Award

Award recognizes excellence in research at Northwestern

  • Shilatifard’s childhood leukemia research leading to promising new drugs
  • Lab’s focus on activating or suppressing a gene’s trait
  • Epigenetic inhibitors developed in Shilatifard’s lab being tested for treatment of childhood leukemia, brain cancer and other solid tumors
  • Career dedicated to improving outcomes in cancer

CHICAGO --- Ali Shilatifard has been named the 15th recipient of the Martin E. and Gertrude G. Walder Award for Research Excellence. Shilatifard is the Robert Francis Furchgott Professor and chairman of biochemistry and molecular genetics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

This award, established in 2002 by Dr. Joseph A. Walder and given annually by the provost, recognizes excellence in research at Northwestern. Walder earned his doctoral and medical degrees from Northwestern and then founded IDT, a company that supplies synthetic DNA for research and clinical applications. A complete list of award recipients can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

Shilatifard, who joined Northwestern in 2014, is a biochemist and molecular biologist and a respected expert in the field of transcription and epigenetics, specifically as it relates to cancer biology. He has an immense interest in understanding the intricate molecular mechanisms of the regulation of gene expression and the mechanisms that activate or suppress a particular gene’s trait, especially how both inherited and environmental factors, or epigenetics, play a role in the development of human disease, including cancer. 

As a Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral fellow, Shilatifard made a seminal contribution to the field of leukemia biology by identifying the first function of any of the MLL translocation partners, which is when a section of one chromosome changes place with that of another chromosome, creating a mutation. For the 20 years that followed, he has dedicated his career to pursuing these important questions that directly relate to improving outcomes in individuals’ prognoses when diagnosed with cancer. 

Shilatifard’s studies have made significant inroads to understanding the cause of childhood leukemia. Research from his laboratory is leading to the development of promising, target-specific drugs for childhood leukemia and other forms of cancers. The epigenetic inhibitors developed in Shilatifard’s laboratory are being tested for the treatment of childhood leukemia, brain cancer and other solid tumors. 

Shilatifard has been recognized by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as the recipient of the Sword of the American Cancer Society, and received the AMGEN Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  He has been funded through three major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

Recently, Shilatifard was selected as an inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute. He serves as a senior editor for the journal Science, a deputy editor for Science Advances, editor for Molecular and Cellular Biology, and also serves on the scientific advisory boards of Genentech, the Max Planck Society and Cell Signaling Technology.

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