NY Professor Wins 2017 March of Dimes Prize

C. David Allis, PhD, The Rockefeller University, received the 2017 March of Dimes and Richard B. Johnston, Jr. MD Prize in Developmental Biology for pioneering research that holds great promise to improve the health of babies. (PRNewsfoto/March of Dimes)

For his pioneering research to help prevent and treat premature birth and birth defects, C. David Allis, PhD, of The Rockefeller University in New York, has been awarded the 2017 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.

“I’m grateful to the March of Dimes not only for this prestigious award, but also for being so steadfastly committed to supporting innovative scientific research for nearly 80 years,” says Dr. Allis. “The March of Dimes is among the leading funders of advances in the health of mothers and children, from the first vaccines for polio to newborn screening tests and many more. I’m proud that this historic organization is recognizing the importance of my work to their goal to help sick babies survive and lead longer, healthier lives.”

Allis is the Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics at Rockefeller University.

“The March of Dimes believes Dr. Allis’s research has opened a door to finding new ways to diagnose, prevent and eventually cure complex conditions such as preterm birth,” says Joe Leigh Simpson, MD, senior vice president of Research and Grants at the March of Dimes.

Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the most significant health problem facing mothers and babies today, the March of Dimes says. Premature birth and its complications are the leading cause of death among babies in the United States and children under age 5 around the world. Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities.

Dr. Simpson noted scientists working at the network of five March of Dimes Prematurity Research Centers around the country are leveraging Dr. Allis’s sentinel discoveries in epigenetics to determine what turns genes on and off, especially away from the healthy/normal state.  “This cutting-edge research in March of Dimes Prematurity Research Centers can be expected to accelerate determination of the causes of preterm birth,” he said.

Dr. Allis will deliver the 22nd annual March of Dimes Prize Lecture on May 8 at the Moscone Convention Center during the 2017 Pediatric Academy Societies annual meeting. He will receive the Prize at a gala black-tie dinner and ceremony that evening at the Hotel Nikko, emceed by CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel, a member of the March of Dimes national Honorary Board of Trustees. Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Robert B. Jaffe, MD Endowed Professor in the Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, is scheduled to deliver the Appreciation. Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes, will preside at the ceremony.

The March of Dimes and Richard B. Johnston, Jr., MD Prize in Developmental Biology has been awarded annually since 1996 to honor investigators whose research has profoundly advanced the science that underlies the understanding of birth defects. The March of Dimes created the Prize as a tribute to Dr. Jonas Salk shortly before his death in 1995. Dr. Salk received March of Dimes support for his work on the polio vaccine. The Prize is a cash award of $250,000 and a silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime, honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt, March of Dimes founder.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health.