2017 Distinguished Mayo Clinic Investigator Awards and Mayo Clinic Team Science Award

The Mayo Clinic Research Committee named the 2017 recipients of the Distinguished Mayo Clinic Investigator Award and the Mayo Clinic Team Science Award.

The Distinguished Mayo Clinic Investigator Award is presented to individuals whose research career demonstrates evidence of great distinction, high distinguished scholarship, creative achievement, and excellence in education and administrative responsibilities.

The Team Science Award recognizes team science: the unique and valuable contributions of different insights, skill sets and complementary expertise, without which the effort could not succeed.

Distinguished Mayo Clinic Investigators

  • Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D., Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., Pediatrics

Mayo Clinic Team Science Awardees

  • William Faubion, M.D., Gastroenterology and Hepatology
  • Eric Dozois, M.D., Colon and Recal Surgery
  • Allan Dietz, Ph.D., Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

About the investigators

Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D. (HYT ’99), is a consultant in the Division of Preventive Cardiology, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and holds joint appointments in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension and the Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Somers holds a named professorship in medicine as the Alice Sheets Marriott Professor.

Dr. Somers directs the Mayo Clinic Sleep Core Laboratory and the Cardiovascular Core Laboratory. He is recognized for his service contributions and external leadership roles, including as a member of the Sleep Research Advisory Board for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and scientific councils within the American Heart Association. He is as an associate editor for Chest, deputy editor for Sleep and editorial board member for several journals including Circulation.

He has served on NIH study sections and review committees for the U.S. Veterans Administration and as an external advisor for academic and tenure committees for more than 20 leading universities. Dr. Somers has chaired more than a dozen international conferences and symposia. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of University Cardiologists. He received the Doctoris Honoris Causa from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and was honored as the Chest 2017 Distinguished Scientist in Cardiopulmonary Physiology.

Dr. Somers’ research spans the continuum of discovery–translation–application, and he has received continuous NIH funding since 1989. He and his colleagues were among the first to demonstrate the effects of sleep and sleep apnea on cardiovascular conditions, such as irregular heart rhythms, heart attacks and sudden death occurring during sleep. Dr. Somers and his team also are working to address unmet patient needs by developing systems for remote monitoring of breathing, heart rate and other physiologic signals — work that has generated several patents, and led to commercialization of this novel technology.

Jan van Deursen, Ph.D.

Jan van Deursen, Ph.D. (P ’99), is a consultant in the Department of Pediatrics and the chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He holds a named professorship as the Vita Valley Professor of Cellular Senescence.

Dr. van Deursen is a co-leader of the Cell Biology program within the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and the Cancer and Cell Aging platform in the Center for Biomedical Discovery. He leads the Cellular Senescence program within the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and directs the Transgenic and Knockout Core Laboratory. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Council for the Mayo Clinic Research Committee.

He has been recognized for his excellence in teaching and mentorship, and received the Distinguished Lecture Award multiple times from the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He has received honorary professorships from the University of Groningen and University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Notably, he has mentored more than 70 fellows, students and trainees as well as hosted visiting scientists.

Dr. van Deursen is a pioneer in the fields of cancer and aging research. He and his colleagues have designed mouse model experiments to understand how chromosomal instability drives cancer, which have led to a series of seminal discoveries that causally link the accumulation of senescent cells in tissues and organs to the development of age-related diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis. He has received numerous honors for this work, including the 2012 Mayo Clinic Investigator of the Year Award, the 2016 Paul F. Glenn Foundation Distinguished Lecturer Award, and the 2011 and 2016 Science magazine runner up for “Breakthrough of the Year.” He and his team are leading studies to develop therapeutic strategies that safely interfere with the detrimental effects of cellular senescence — advancing innovative discoveries for commercialization.

About the 2017 Team Science awardees

Allan Dietz, Ph.D., William Faubion, M.D., and Eric Dozois, M.D.

The 2017 Team Science Award is presented to the team leading a “Phase I study of autologous mesenchymal stromal cell coated fistula plug in patients with fistulizing Crohn’s disease.” The team is headed by William Faubion, M.D. (PDGI ’98, GI ’02), Eric Dozois, M.D. (S ’00, CRS ’01), and Allan Dietz, Ph.D. (ONCL ’02) – all at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Dr. Faubion is a consultant in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and specializes in inflammatory bowel diseases. Dr. Dozois is a consultant in the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery with expertise in surgical interventions for managing Crohn’s disease. Dr. Dietz is a consultant in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and directs Immune, Progenitor, and Cell Therapeutics (IMPACT) laboratory in the Division of Transfusion Medicine.

Collaborating together across specialities, this team was one of the transformation teams launched in 2014 as part of Transform the Practice strategic goal to address unmet needs of patients. One of the concerns of patients with Crohn’s disease is painful fistulas, which can cause drainage of bowel contents onto the skin and lead to infections.

The team has developed a novel regenerative medicine therapy that utilizes a patient’s own stem cells and a dissolvable mesh to create a plug for the fistula. Once the plug is surgically implanted, it is designed to decrease inflammation around the fistula and also recruit new cells to heal the body from within. The team has published initial results from the phase I trial, and plans are underway to conduct a phase II multicenter trial. Moreover, this work has spurred additional collaborations across Mayo Clinic to explore the use of this technology to address other aspects of Crohn’s disease, as well as fistulas related to different conditions. Read more about the team and watch a video about their collaboration.


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