Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health and an internationally renowned expert in cell signaling and cancer biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The NAS recently announced the election of 150 new members in recognition of their distinguished achievements in original research, bringing the number of active members to 2,512. The academy encourages education and research; seeks to increase public understanding of science, engineering, and medicine; and advises the government on key scientific questions.
Through his research, Dr. Neel has helped to unravel cell signaling pathways involved in developmental disease and in cancer, with a focus on several protein tyrosine phosphatases that his group discovered. This work has suggested new therapeutic approaches to cancers caused by KRAS mutations, such as lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. He also has made significant contributions to the functional genomics of breast cancer and generated new models of ovarian cancer.
“The NAS election of Dr. Neel is the latest evidence that our leaders are, indeed, among the very best scientists in the world,” says Robert I. Grossman, MD, chief executive officer of NYU Langone Health and dean of NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “I am confident that Dr. Neel’s most significant contributions will lead to better medicine, and to improved lives, for our patients.”
Since his arrival in 2015, Dr. Neel and his outstanding team have overseen a near doubling of the number of patients enrolled in clinical trials, the recruitment of more than 40 renowned faculty members, and a 45 percent increase in research funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The rise in NCI funding included $20 million in new funding that accompanied Perlmutter Cancer Center’s designation in February 2019 as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, an elite group of 50 cancer centers nationwide at the time that had earned the distinction.
Dr. Neel earned his PhD in viral oncology from The Rockefeller University in 1982 and his MD from Cornell University Medical School the following year. His work with William S. Hayward and the late Susan Astrin on the activation of endogenous oncogenes by slowly transforming RNA tumor viruses, which he carried out as a graduate student at The Rockefeller University, has had a long-lasting impact on cancer science. He previously held positions as the William B. Castle Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of hematology–oncology research, head of the cancer biology program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, and as director of research at Princess Margaret Cancer Center, and Canada Research Chair, Tier 1, at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Neel has authored more than 260 primary papers and 35 reviews. He is a former program chair of the annual meeting and member of board of directors of American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), recipient of the initial AACR Gertrude Elion Award and of the Premier of Ontario Summit Award, and an elected member of the Association of American Physicians.
Three Years in a Row
2022 marks the third year in row that a researcher from NYU Grossman School of Medicine has joined the academy. Kathryn J. Moore, PhD, the Jean and David Blechman Professor of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine, was elected in 2021, and chief scientific officer Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, the Saul J. Farber Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology and vice dean for science at NYU Langone Health, was elected in 2020.
Dr. Moore studies how the immune system contributes to the development of atherosclerosis and how genes that control cholesterol deposition in blood vessels might be manipulated by experimental therapies. By linking studies of lipids, metabolism, and innate immunity, she has revealed insights into pathways that regulate cholesterol homeostasis and vascular inflammation. Dr. Moore also recently engendered notice for her study showing that heart attacks, by changing the immune system, may accelerate the development of breast cancer.
Dr. Moore earned her PhD from McGill University in Montreal, and pursued postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School in autoimmunity and atherosclerosis. She joined the Harvard Medical School faculty as an assistant professor in 2001, before moving to NYU Grossman School of Medicine in 2009. Her awards include the American Heart Association (AHA) Special Recognition Award, the Jeffrey Hoeg Arteriosclerosis Award for Basic Science and Clinical Research, and a National Institutes of Health Outstanding Investigator Award. In addition, in November 2021, the AHA presented Dr. Moore with its Distinguished Scientist in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Award.
Dr. Bar-Sagi is a cancer biologist recognized for her work on processes that drive tumor progression. This includes her recent work that found pancreatic tumors program immune cells to break collagen into molecules that trigger fibrotic buildup, a known barrier to therapy. She is known particularly for her studies delineating the role of the RAS oncogene in enhancing tumor cell survival via metabolic changes and evasion of the immune system, and the use of chemical and nanobiology approaches to identify new treatments.
Since taking her role as chief scientific officer in 2011, Dr. Bar-Sagi has been instrumental in enhancing the national reputation of NYU Grossman School of Medicine, which was No. 2 among U.S. medical schools for research in the most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking. She is also the recipient of the 2018 AACR Scientific Achievement Award and Lectureship, the 21st AACR Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship, and an NCI Outstanding Investigator Award. She was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Bar-Sagi earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and her PhD from SUNY at Stony Brook. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the cell biology group at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Before joining NYU School of Medicine Medical Center in 2006 as chair of the Department of Biochemistry, Dr. Bar-Sagi headed the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at SUNY at Stony Brook. In 2011, Dr. Bar-Sagi assumed the role of senior vice president and vice dean for science, chief scientific officer at NYU Langone. In addition to her elected position to the NAS, she also is a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research.