Eric Lander

Eric Steven Lander (born February 3, 1957), a mathematician and geneticist, is a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, former member of the Whitehead Institute, and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He was co-chair of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.[3][4] He is a 1987 MacArthur Fellow.

Eric Lander
Eric Lander speaks at the Mouse Genome Sequencing Press Conference on December 4, 2002
Born (1957-02-03) February 3, 1957
Alma materPrinceton University (BS)
University of Oxford (DPhil)
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship (1987)
Dickson Prize (1997)
Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service (1998)
Gairdner Award (2002)
Harvey Prize (2012)
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013)
Killian Award (2017)
Scientific career
InstitutionsBroad Institute
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ThesisTopics in algebraic coding theory (1980)
Doctoral advisorPeter Cameron
Doctoral studentsManolis Kellis[2]
Erez Lieberman Aiden
Mark Daly

Early life and education

Lander was raised in a Jewish family,[5] the son of Harold and Rhoda Lander who were both lawyers. He was captain of the math team at Stuyvesant High School and an International Mathematical Olympiad Silver Medalist for the United States, graduating from high school in 1974. He attended and later taught at the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics program. At the age of seventeen, he wrote a paper on quasiperfect numbers for which he won the Westinghouse Science Talent Search.[6]

Lander attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1978 as valedictorian. He did his bachelor thesis under supervision of John Coleman Moore with the title "On the structure of projective modules".[7] He then attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and he wrote his Doctor of Philosophy thesis on algebraic coding theory and symmetric block designs, under the supervision of Peter Cameron.[8]


Early mathematical career

As a mathematician, Lander studied combinatorics and applications of representation theory to coding theory. He enjoyed mathematics, but did not wish to spend his life in such a "monastic" career.[9] Unsure of what to do next, he took up a job teaching managerial economics at Harvard Business School; Lander also began writing a book on information theory. At the suggestion of his brother, developmental biologist Arthur Lander, he started to look at neurobiology "because there's a lot of information in the brain." In order to understand mathematical neurobiology, he felt he had to study cellular neurobiology; in turn, this led to studying microbiology and eventually, genetics. "When I finally feel I have learned genetics, I should get back to these other problems. But I'm still trying to get the genetics right."

He later became acquainted with David Botstein, a geneticist working at MIT. Botstein was working on a way to unravel how subtle differences in complex genetic systems can become disorders like cancer, diabetes, schizophrenia, and even obesity. The two collaborated to develop a computer algorithm to analyze the maps of genes.[9] Lander then joined the Whitehead Institute in 1986; that same year, he became an assistant professor at MIT. Lander was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1987. In 1990, he founded the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research (WICGR). The WICGR became one of the world's leading centers of genome research, and under Lander's leadership, it made great progress in developing new methods of analyzing mammalian genomes. It also made important breakthroughs in applying this information to the study of human genetic variation, and formed the basis for the foundation of the Broad Institute—a transformation that Lander spearheaded.

Contributions to genomics

There were two main groups attempting to sequence the human genome: the first was the Human Genome Project (HGP), a publicly funded effort that intended to publish the information it obtained freely and without restrictions. Many research groups from countries all over the world were involved in this collaborative effort. The second effort was undertaken by Celera Genomics, which intended to patent the information obtained and charge subscriptions for use of the sequence data. (Celera has since abandoned this policy and has donated large amounts of sequence information for free public use.) Established first, the HGP moved slowly in the early phases of research as the role of the Department of Energy was unclear and sequencing technology was in its infancy. When Celera entered the race to discover the genome, the pressure was on the HGP to establish as much of the genome in the public domain as quickly as possible. This was a change of strategy for the HGP, because many scientists at the time wanted a more complete copy of the genome. Along with other members of the HGP, Lander pushed for quicker discovery so that genes would not be discovered and patented by Celera first.

In 2001, a draft of the human genome was published in the journal Nature. The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Center for Genome Research, was listed first (the order was according to total genomic sequence contributed). Lander was the first author named.[10][11]

The WICGR has also made a leading contribution to the sequencing of the mouse genome.[12] Aside from academic interest this is an important step in fully understanding the molecular biology of mice which are often used as model organisms in studies of everything from human diseases to embryonic development. Increased understanding of mice will thus facilitate many areas of research. The WICGR has also sequenced the genomes of Ciona savignyi (sea squirt),[13] the pufferfish,[14] the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa,[15] and multiple relatives of Saccharomyces cerevisiae,[16] one of the most studied yeasts. The Ciona savignyi genome provides a good system for exploring the evolutionary origins of all vertebrates. Pufferfish have smaller-sized genomes compared to other vertebrates; as a result, their genomes are "mini" models for vertebrates. The sequencing of the yeasts related to Saccharomyces cerevisiae will ease the identification of key gene regulatory elements some of which may be common to all eukaryotes (including both plant and animal kingdoms).

Beyond genomics

Sequence data is just that: a list of bases found in a given stretch of DNA. Its value lies in the discoveries and new technologies it allows. In Lander's case, one of these applications is the study of disease. He is the founder and director of the Broad Institute, a collaboration between MIT, Harvard, the Whitehead institute and affiliated hospitals. Its goal is "to create tools for genome medicine and make them broadly available to the scientific community; to apply these tools to propel the understanding and treatment of disease". To this end they are studying the variation in the human genome and have led an international effort which has assembled a library of 2.1 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). These act as markers or signposts in the genome allowing the identification of disease susceptibility genes. They hope to construct a map of the human genome using blocks of these SNP called Linkage disequilibrium or LD. This map will be of significant help in medical genetics. It will allow researchers to link a given condition to a given gene or set of genes using the LD as a marker. This will allow for improved diagnostic procedures. Lander and his colleagues are hoping the LD map will allow them to test the Common Disease-Common Variant hypothesis which states that many common diseases may be caused by a small number of common alleles, for example 50% of the variance in susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease is explained by the common allele ApoE4. Lander's group have recently discovered an important association that accounts for a large proportion of population risk for adult onset diabetes.

Lander's most important work[17] may be his development of a molecular taxonomy for cancers.[18] The cancers are grouped according to gene expression and information like their response to chemotherapy is collected for each group. The division of cancers into homogeneous subgroups will allow increased understanding of the molecular origins of these cancers and aid the design of more effective therapies. They have also identified a new type of leukemia called MLL and have identified a gene which may serve as a target for a new drug.


In addition to his research, he has for several years co-taught MIT's required undergraduate introductory biology course (7.012) with Robert Weinberg. Since 2013, he is also teaching 2 online courses named "Quantitative Biology Workshop" and "7.00x Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life" via the EdX platform by working together with the MITx Bio group headed by Mary Ellen Wiltrout.[19]

Translational ventures

Lander is a founding advisor of Foundation Medicine, a company that aims to bring comprehensive cancer genomic analysis to routine clinical care.[20] He is also a co-founder of Verastem, biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by targeting cancer stem cells.[21]

Forensic Science and Criminal Justice

In 1989, Lander provided expert testimony in a criminal case: People v. Castro in New York. He showed that the then-current method of interpreting DNA evidence was flawed, and liable to give false positive matches, implicating innocent defendants.[22][23][24] Two of the defense lawyers in that case, Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, went on to found the Innocence Project, an organization which uses DNA analysis to exonerate wrongly-convicted prisoners. Lander is a member of the board of directors.[25]

Media appearances

Lander was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of our time (2004) for his work on the HGP. Lander has also appeared in numerous PBS documentaries about genetics. He was listed at #2 on the MIT150 list of the top 150 innovators and ideas from MIT.

Recognition and service

In December 2008, he was named, along with Harold E. Varmus, one of the co-chairs of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the Obama administration. In 2012 he was awarded the Dan David Prize.

Lander is also a member of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Advisory Board.[26]

In 2013, Lander was awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33]

On February 6, 2017, Lander received a honoris causa doctorate from the Université catholique de Louvain.[34]

In 2017 he also received the William Allan Award from the American Society of Human Genetics.[35]

Selected works

  • In Wake of Genetic Revolution, Questions About Its Meaning, in The New York Times, September 12, 2000.[36]

See also


  1. Archived December 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  2. Kamvysselis, Manolis (2003). Computational comparative genomics : genes, regulation, evolution. (PhD thesis). MIT. hdl:1721.1/7999. OCLC 53277177.
  3. Nair, P. (2011). "QnAs with Eric S. Lander". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (28): 11319. doi:10.1073/pnas.1106996108. PMC 3136317. PMID 21606349.
  4. Lander, E. S. (2004). "Eric S. Lander". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 3 (9): 730. doi:10.1038/nrd1514. PMID 15368656.
  5. "Oral History | James D. Watson | Personality & Influence | Eric Lander on Spirituality & Science". 2003-06-02. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  6. Elmer-DeWitt, Philip. "The 2004 TIME 100: Scientists & Thinkers: Eric Lander". Time. Time Inc. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  7. Lander, Eric. On the structure of projective modules (Bachelor thesis). Princeton University. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  8. Lander, Eric (1980). Topics in algebraic coding theory (D.Phil. thesis). University of Oxford. EThOS
  9. "Power in Numbers". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  10. Lander, E. S.; Linton, M.; Birren, B.; Nusbaum, C.; Zody, C.; Baldwin, J.; Devon, K.; Dewar, K.; Doyle, M.; Fitzhugh, W.; Funke, R.; Gage, D.; Harris, K.; Heaford, A.; Howland, J.; Kann, L.; Lehoczky, J.; Levine, R.; McEwan, P.; McKernan, K.; Meldrim, J.; Mesirov, J. P.; Miranda, C.; Morris, W.; Naylor, J.; Raymond, C.; Rosetti, M.; Santos, R.; Sheridan, A.; et al. (Feb 2001). "Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome". Nature. 409 (6822): 860–921. doi:10.1038/35057062. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 11237011.
  11. Lander, E. S. (2011). "Initial impact of the sequencing of the human genome" (PDF). Nature. 470 (7333): 187–197. doi:10.1038/nature09792. PMID 21307931.
  12. Chinwalla, A. T.; Waterston, L. L.; Lindblad-Toh, K. D.; Birney, G. A.; Rogers, L. A.; Abril, R. S.; Agarwal, T. A.; Agarwala, L. W.; Ainscough, E. R.; Alexandersson, J. D.; An, T. L.; Antonarakis, W. E.; Attwood, J. O.; Baertsch, M. N.; Bailey, K. H.; Barlow, C. S.; Beck, T. C.; Berry, B.; Birren, J.; Bloom, E.; Bork, R. H.; Botcherby, M. C.; Bray, R. K.; Brent, S. P.; Brown, P.; Brown, E.; Bult, B.; Burton, T.; Butler, D. G.; et al. (2002). "Initial sequencing and comparative analysis of the mouse genome". Nature. 420 (6915): 520–562. doi:10.1038/nature01262. PMID 12466850.
  13. "Ciona savignyi Database". 2004-09-10. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  14. "Tetraodon nigroviridis Database". 2004-09-10. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  15. "Neurospora crassa Database". 2014-04-09. Archived from the original on 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  16. "Saccharomyces Genome Database". 2015-02-18. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  17. Eric Lander in Google Scholar
  18. Golub, T. R.; Slonim, D.; Tamayo, P.; Huard, C.; Gaasenbeek, M.; Mesirov, J.; Coller, H.; Loh, M.; Downing, J.; Caligiuri, M. A.; Bloomfield, C. D.; Lander, E. S. (1999). "Molecular Classification of Cancer: Class Discovery and Class Prediction by Gene Expression Monitoring". Science. 286 (5439): 531–537. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.286.5439.531. PMID 10521349.
  19. "MITx: 7.00x: Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life (March 2013)". edX. 2013-03-03. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  20. "Leadership – Foundation Medicine". Archived from the original on 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  21. Gupta, Piyush B.; Onder, Tamer T.; Jiang, Guozhi; Tao, Kai; Kuperwasser, Charlotte; Weinberg, Robert A.; Lander, Eric S. (2010-11-16). "News Release - Novel Drugs Targeting Cancer Stem Cells". Cell. 138 (4): 645–659. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2009.06.034. PMC 4892125. PMID 19682730. Archived from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  22. Scheck, B (2013). "The innocence project at twenty: an interview with Barry Scheck. Interview by Jane Gitschier". PLoS Genet. 9 (8): e1003692. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003692. PMC 3738447. PMID 23950733.
  23. "DNA's detective story". The Economist. 2004-03-11.
  24. Mnookin, Jennifer L. (2007). "People V. Castro: Challenging the Forensic Use of DNA Evidence". Journal of Scholarly Perspectives. 3 (1).
  26. "USA Science and Engineering Festival - Advisors". Archived from the original on 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  29. "Broad Institute Director Eric Lander Wins $3 Million Breakthrough Prize". 2013-02-22.
  30. "Lander Awarded $3 Million | News | the Harvard Crimson".
  32. Overbye, Dennis (2013-02-20). "At $3 Million, New Award Gives Medical Researchers a Dose of Celebrity". The New York Times.
  33. "Eric Lander > Defense Innovation Board > Bio Display".
  34. Université catholique de Louvain website Archived 2017-02-11 at the Wayback Machine
  35. "William Allan Award". ASHG. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  36. "CGS : In Wake of Genetic Revolution, Questions About Its Meaning". 2000-09-12. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.