news and events

MEMP Student Isha Jain Receives 2017 Weintraub Award

Monday, March 27, 2017

HST MEMP PhD student Isha Jain is one of thirteen graduate students worldwide selected to receive the 2017 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award. Isha works in the lab of of Professor Vamsi Mootha focusing on mitochondrial disease. 

Isha says, "It is such an honor to receive this award. First and foremost, this award represents a tremendous amount of support and knowledge that my mentors have showered me with over the years. I am fortunate to have such caring PhD advisers—Prof. Vamsi Mootha and Prof. Warren Zapol. It is really nice to have validation that you are working on interesting research problems, that will hopefully one day have a biomedical impact. Disease relevance and the hope for therapies is the reason I am so drawn to science."

Isha’s research has highlighted the crucial role that oxygen plays in mitochondrial disease and established the basis for hypoxia as a potential therapy. Her PhD work uses a genome-wide screen to identify the ideal therapeutic target for mitochondrial disease. Isha says, "We found that the hypoxia response pathway was protective in cell culture models of disease. Amazingly, exposing mice with mitochondrial disease to hypoxia (equivalent to living at 4500m altitude) prolonged lifespan by 5-fold! This was the crucial experiment which convinced us of the therapeutic relevance of hypoxia. We are currently performing preclinical investigations to further develop this therapeutic approach for human patients, while also working to figure out how hypoxia is having such a beneficial effect."

The Weintraub Award recognizes outstanding achievement during graduate studies in the biological sciences. A committee of individuals from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center selects awardees from among those nominated on the basis of quality, originality, and significance of their work. Awardees are invited to participate in a scientific symposium honoring Hal Weintraub and his commitment to innovative science.