James R. Downing, M.D., becomes hospital’s sixth IOM member
James R. Downing, M.D., scientific director, deputy director and executive vice president at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has been elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a prestigious branch of the National Academy of Sciences. Downing’s election brings the number of IOM members from St. Jude to six. St. Jude has one of the highest numbers of IOM members among U.S. children’s hospitals.
“Dr. Downing’s election to the Institute of Medicine is a great testament to his many scientific accomplishments and a great honor for St. Jude,” said Dr. William E. Evans, St. Jude director and CEO. “As we continue to focus on finding cures for life-threatening diseases, Dr. Downing is among those leading the way in revealing the genetic causes of childhood cancers.”
Downing is internationally recognized for his seminal contributions to the understanding of the molecular pathology of acute leukemia and the application of this information to increase the number of children cured. In 2010, he was instrumental in launching the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, the world’s largest project devoted to understanding childhood cancer.
The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project has sequenced the complete normal and cancer genomes of about 700 children and adolescents with some of the least understood and most aggressive pediatric cancers. This has already produced key discoveries related to childhood leukemias, brain tumors, central nervous system tumors and eye tumors. This project is now in a second phase to dig deeper into the genomic landscape of childhood cancers. In addition, St. Jude has undertaken a major effort to translate genomics into clinical decision-making.
Joining St. Jude in 1986 as an assistant member in pathology, Downing rose through the ranks to serve as chair of the department from 1997 to 2009. In 2004, he was appointed as the institution’s executive vice president and scientific director and in 2011 as its deputy director.
Downing has traveled the globe presenting his research and has received numerous honors including the Association for Molecular Pathology Award for Excellence in Molecular Diagnostics, the American Association for Cancer Research Team Science Award and the American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowship. In 2013, he was nominated by TIME magazine for its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Downing has been published in prestigious journals including New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Science and Cell and holds membership in numerous academic and professional societies. He earned both his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan.
Established in 1970, the IOM is an honorific organization with more than 1,900 members and foreign associates. Each year, the full membership elects up to 70 new members and 10 foreign associates for their excellence and professional achievement in a field relevant to the IOM’s mission.
Other IOM members from St. Jude are Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty, Ph.D.; director and CEO Dr. William E. Evans; Arthur Nienhuis, M.D., former St. Jude CEO; Charles Sherr, M.D., Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Tumor Cell Biology chair; and Mary Relling, Pharm.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences chair.
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