Stephen T. Warren, PhD, chair and William Patterson Timmie professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine, is new President of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) for 2006. Dr. Warren recently completed a term as President Elect of the ASHG election for 2005.
The ASHG was founded in 1948 as the primary professional membership organization for human geneticists in the Americas. The nearly 8,000 members include researchers, academicians, clinicians, laboratory practice professionals, genetic counselors, nurses and others involved in or with a special interest in human genetics.
Dr. Warren is renowned for his groundbreaking genetic discoveries, including the identification of "triplet repeat expansion" as the cause of fragile X syndrome and as an entirely new inheritance mechanism of genetic disease. Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent inherited form of mental retardation. In 2003 the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) selected Dr. Warren for its Hall of Honor, commemorating the institute's 40th anniversary and recognizing his discoveries.
Dr. Warren joined the Emory School of Medicine faculty in 1985 and became founding chair of the Department of Human Genetics in 2001. Under his leadership the department has expanded from 5 to 40 full-time faculty members, including clinical faculty in the Division of Medical Genetics, which recently merged with the department.
"Dr. Warren's many years of international scientific leadership and his groundbreaking discoveries in the field of human genetics make him an ideal choice for this important position," says Thomas J. Lawley, MD, dean of Emory University School of Medicine. "Genomic medicine holds great promise for the future of healthcare, and we are proud that Dr. Warren is guiding this group of distinguished scientists."
Dr. Warren received his PhD in human genetics from Michigan State University in 1981. He was a fellow at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a visiting scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. In 1991 Dr. Warren was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) associate investigator, and was promoted to full investigator in 1995. He is certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics in clinical cytogenetics and clinical molecular genetics.
Dr. Warren has served as editor-in-chief of the "American Journal of Human Genetics" from 1999 until 2005. In 1996 he received the first annual William Rosen Research Award from the National Fragile X Foundation. In 1999 he received the William Allan Award, the highest award of the ASHG, and in 2004 was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science. He is a member of the Human Genome Organization and a Founding Fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics.
In 1991 Dr. Warren led an international research team that discovered the FMR1 gene, which is responsible for fragile X syndrome. In 1993 Dr. Warren's team characterized FMRP, the protein expressed by the normal FMR1 gene, and learned that fragile X syndrome occurs when the FMR1 gene does not produce the FMRP protein. This results in the abnormal translation of other genes into proteins required for neuron interaction.
In the past few years Dr. Warren and his colleagues have demonstrated that the genetic mutation leading to fragile X syndrome goes well beyond the original protein expression of the gene and affects additional proteins that cause "downstream" cellular consequences that could negatively influence development and behavior. Thus far, no treatment has been available for fragile X syndrome, but the Emory scientists believe their new knowledge about the mechanisms of fragile X may soon enable the development of therapeutic approaches to regulate the gene expression and neural pathways involved.