As vice dean for science and chief scientific officer of NYU Langone Medical Center, Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, is the principal strategist for the institution’s research enterprise, which last year received $328 million in grant revenue.
But her passion for scientific investigation extends beyond the boardroom. “No matter what happens during the day in my administrative life,” Dr. Bar-Sagi says, “the last thing I think about before I go to sleep is an intriguing set of data I saw during the day. And the first thing that I think about when I get up in the morning is what’s going to happen in the lab today.”
“No matter what happens during the day in my administrative life, the last thing I think about before I go to sleep is an intriguing set of data I saw during the day. And the first thing that I think about when I get up in the morning is what’s going to happen in the lab today.”
In October, the National Cancer Institute recognized Dr. Bar-Sagi—a senior member of NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center—for her devotion to science and contributions to cancer research, honoring her with its Outstanding Investigator Award. The prestigious award supports scientists with esteemed records of productivity, encouraging them to continue or embark on research projects with high potential. By providing extended financial support, the award empowers investigators to take greater risks and follow more adventurous paths.
Dr. Bar-Sagi will receive $1 million per year for seven years to fund her research on understanding the mechanisms that drive pancreatic cancer. The Bar-Sagi laboratory, widely known for elucidating cellular pathways involved in controlling cell growth, has helped shape a finer understanding of how Ras oncogenes, a well-studied family of cancer genes, regulate cell proliferation and survival, tumor immunity, metabolism, and cell-to-cell signaling. Her lab is currently exploring a novel nutrient-delivery system in tumor cells. Previously unobserved in mammalian cells, this system involves the scavenging of extracellular protein by macropinocytosis. It has broad implications for understanding the metabolic vulnerabilities of Ras-driven tumors, which Dr. Bar-Sagi and team hope to exploit in an effort to develop more effective therapies against pancreatic cancer—among the most difficult malignancies to treat. The life expectancy for most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is less than a year.
Prior to joining NYU Langone in 2006 as chair of the Department of Biochemistry, Dr. Bar-Sagi headed the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.