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Danny Reinberg, PhD, Elected Member of Prestigious Institute of Medicine

IOM Membership is One of the Highest Accolades for Outstanding Professional Achievement and Commitment to Service in Medicine and Health

NYU School of Medicine announced today that Danny Reinberg, PhD, professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and head of the Reinberg Lab at NYU School of Medicine, has been elected a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Seventy new members and ten foreign associates were named during the IOM’s 43nd annual meeting on October 21, 2013. Dr. Reinberg is NYU School of Medicine’s 10th faculty member inducted into the IOM.

“Dr. Reinberg’s election into the IOM reflects the combination of intellect, effort, creativity, and excellence evident in his groundbreaking work and contributions to science and medicine,” said Robert I. Grossman, MD, dean and CEO of NYU Langone Medical Center. “We congratulate Dr. Reinberg on receiving this extraordinary honor.”

Dr. Reinberg is a leading expert in the fields of eukaryotic transcription and epigenetics. He and his collaborators have made fundamental discoveries uncovering the details of the intricate process of transcription during which information from DNA is transferred to RNA that directs protein production. In the field of epigenetics, the study of how genes are activated or deactivated by modifications to chromatin, changes in gene expression that can be passed on to future generations, his group has made major inroads including showing how transcription from genes are activated or inhibited based on modifications to the histone proteins that fold the DNA into open or closed structures. These features are epigenetic, because they affect the DNA structure, not the DNA sequence (genetic). Yet, these modifications are also passed on to future cell generations ensuring that the identical pattern of gene transcription is maintained.

Dr. Reinberg’s forte is in the purification of the numerous array of individual proteins to identify exactly how they operate, alone and in conjunction with their partners, to work to ensure the correct transcription process occurs in the test tube. Over the years, his group detailed the required, fundamental steps in the transcription process, and their biological relevance in the cell. In an advance in the field, his group chartered the transcription process from more complex DNA in the form of chromatin, the spool-and-thread combination of DNA wrapped around histone proteins that mimics the intricate state of DNA in the cell.

The various, naturally occurring modifications to the histone proteins within chromatin lead to distinct assemblies/structures of the DNA making it either accessible or not to the transcription machinery in the cell and are key to dictating the cell’s precise transcription program, which lead to how cells develop to become different tissues of the body. His findings advanced our conceptual knowledge of the workings of the factors responsible for these modifications, how these modifications set the DNA structure, and why losing the integrity of this process can result in diseased states.

To study how these histone modifications set a program of transcription that distinguishes the behavior of a whole organism, Dr. Reinberg and collaborators focused on an experimentally approachable model organism, the ant. In 2008, Dr. Reinberg and his team attained a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to study features of chromatin (epigenetic differences) amongst distinct members of a colony of ants. As a result of the groundbreaking collaboration led by Dr. Reinberg, the Ant Genome Project sequenced the entire genome of two ant species and is in position to examine the epigenetic blueprints in ants that may provide clues to longevity, aging and behavior in humans.

Among his accolades, Dr. Reinberg was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) 2012 Class of Fellows and was the recipient of the HHMI Collaborative Innovation Award. He also received an NIH Merit Award and a Junior Faculty Research Award and a Faculty Research Award from the American Cancer Society. Dr. Reinberg has co-authored more than 230 works in journals that include Nature, Science, Cell, Genes & Development, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, among others, and co-edited an authoritative textbook on epigenetics. He received his doctorate in molecular biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Reinberg has made seminal contributions to our understanding of epigenetics and the mechanisms through which our genetic makeup evolves,” said Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, vice dean for science and chief scientific officer at NYU Langone. “He continues to exemplify the passion for discovery that is the mark of the best scientific minds. We are thrilled to congratulate him on this latest, well-deserved honor.”

Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, IOM is recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues. Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. New members are elected by current active members through a selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health. 

The newly elected members raise IOM's total active membership to 1,753 and the number of foreign associates to 120. With an additional 93 members holding emeritus status, IOM's total membership is 1,966. IOM's charter ensures diversity of talent among the Institute's membership by requiring at least one-quarter of the members to be selected from fields outside the health professions, such as engineering, social sciences, law, and the humanities.

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