Award: Taylor Prize winner credited for ‘rescuing abandoned molecule’
When others had given up, Dr. Daniel Rader kept digging. He was searching for a treatment that could help patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition that causes dangerously high levels of cholesterol.
After research teams abandoned a molecule called lomitapide as a potential treatment, Rader requested that the rights to the drug be donated to his team so they could keep testing it in patients. Results from their studies led to the FDA approval of the cholesterol-lowering medication – sold under the brand name Juxtapid – for the treatment of patients with familial hypercholesterolemia.
“Many patients have since been treated with lomitapide and I like to believe that it has helped stave off heart attacks and strokes in many of them,” Dr. Rader said.
It is this determination, persistence and passion to improve the health of patients that makes Dr. Rader the deserving recipient of the 2019 J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine. Robarts Research Institute at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry has awarded the Taylor Prize to leading scientists since 1985 to recognize the contributions of outstanding internationally recognized researchers.
Dr. Rader is the Seymour Gray Professor of Molecular Medicine and Chair of the Department of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Dr. Rader is a world-renowned expert in the field of human genetics related to lipid metabolism and atherosclerosis,” said Marlys Koschinsky, PhD, Scientific and Executive Director at Robarts. “His work has been transformational in bringing new treatments to patients and we are thrilled to present him with this award.”
Dr. Rader’s work explores the biological pathways in lipid metabolism and heart disease that are revealed through genome-wide human genetics studies. He is an international leader in the translation of human genetics into new therapeutic targets and has been a champion of ‘genomic medicine’ and its potential benefits in guiding preventive therapies. He is involved in several start-up biotech companies related to his work.
“I am inspired by the potential for human genetics to help point to new therapeutic targets that we may not have thought of otherwise,” Dr. Rader said. “I am confident that this will happen for atherosclerotic disease, and that several new promising targets will come out of the large studies currently being carried out by us and many others.”
The J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine is named after the founding Chair of the Board at Robarts, and includes a cash prize of $25,000 and a medal bearing the likeness of J. Allyn Taylor. The award is generously supported by the Stiller Foundation and the family of the late J. Allyn Taylor.
“I have always viewed this prize as a ‘summit’ of academic achievement. The list of recipients is a ‘who’s who’ of biomedical science, and includes a few of my colleagues at Penn whom I hold in high regard,” Dr. Rader said. “Mr. Taylor himself clearly prized innovation, which is so critical to biomedical research as it is to business.”