WASHINGTON, July 11, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, President Donald J. Trump announced the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Included in this distinguished group was John E. Harris, MD, PhD, the 2019 American Skin Association (ASA) Calder Research Scholar Award in Vitiligo and Pigment Cell Disorders recipient.
The PECASE is the highest honor presented by the United States Government to brilliant scientists and engineers beginning their independent research careers and who show incredible promise for leadership in science and technology. The PECASE was established in 1996 to recognize contributions that scientists and engineers have made to further the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and to community service, as exhibited through scientific leadership, public education and community outreach.
Dr. Harris is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) in Worcester, MA. He directs the Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center at UMMS, which integrates a specialty clinic for the diagnosis and treatment of patients with vitiligo, as well as a vitiligo research laboratory. Dr. Harris uses basic, translational, and clinical research approaches to better understand autoimmunity in vitiligo, with a particular focus on developing more effective treatments.
Dr. Harris is one of the thought leaders who revolutionized vitiligo treatment with a new family of drugs called JAK inhibitors (JAKinh), which reversibly inhibit Janus Kinases. These drugs inhibit downstream signaling in the interferon gamma pathway and are broadly effective in many autoimmune diseases characterized by the activation of gamma interferon. Over the past five years, Dr. Harris's lab has proven the key role of cytotoxic lymphocytes secreting gamma interferon in the pathogenesis of vitiligo. He was a member of the first study of oral JAKinh in vitiligo in which oral tofacitinob induced repigmentation of vitiligo, further enhanced by ultraviolet light therapy. Dr. Harris recently reported a new multi-investigator study using the topical JAKinh ruxolitinib, which induces vitiligo repigmentation and is also improved by ultraviolet therapy. His work will introduce a new era of efficient treatment of vitiligo and other autoimmune skin diseases.
"We are very proud that Dr. Harris, a talented researcher, physician, and 2019 ASA Calder Research Scholar Award in Vitiligo and Pigment Cell Disorders recipient, has been recognized by our country with such an outstanding honor," said Howard P. Milstein, Chairman of ASA. "Dr. Harris' important contributions to dermatologic research in vitiligo and pigment cell disorders and education should indeed be celebrated."
Dr. Harris earned his MD and PhD degrees at UMMS. He entered a combined research/residency program in dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania and his postdoctoral research focused on the development of a mouse model of vitiligo with epidermal depigmentation. He now advises multiple graduate students, MD/PhD students, and postdoctoral fellows in his research laboratory at UMMS, and teaches medical students and residents in his vitiligo clinic.
Dr. Harris has also authored many research publications and textbook chapters on vitiligo and other topics, and serves on a number of advisory boards and committees, including the Dermatology Foundation, Skin of Color Society, Vitiligo Working Group, Vitiligo Research Foundation, National Alopecia Areata Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), and the New England Dermatology Society. He is an advisor and collaborator with multiple pharmaceutical companies, including AbbVie, Combe Inc, Genzyme/Sanofi, and Pfizer.
"Dr. Harris is an outstanding leader at the forefront of dermatologic research, making great strides in the treatment of vitiligo and alopecia areata," said David A. Norris, MD, President of ASA. "ASA has been continually impressed with the progress of Dr. Harris' research, and we are thrilled that he has been bestowed with such an impressive honor."
Dr. Harris is an ad hoc reviewer on grant applications for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dermatology Foundation, and National Alopecia Areata Foundation, as well as multiple research journals, including Science Translational Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, Experimental Dermatology, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, JAMA Dermatology, and others. He receives generous grant support from the NIH, Dermatology Foundation, and other sources. He has lectured on vitiligo and other topics to local, regional, national, and international audiences. Dr. Harris was recently awarded the AAD 2020 Marion B. Sulzberger, MD, Memorial Award and Lectureship. He will present a plenary lecture at the March 2020 Annual AAD meeting in Denver, CO.
ABOUT AMERICAN SKIN ASSOCIATION
A unique collaboration of patients, families, advocates, physicians and scientists, ASA has evolved over thirty-two years as a leading force in efforts to defeat melanoma, skin cancer, and other skin diseases. Established to serve the now more than 100 million Americans – one third of the U.S. population – afflicted with skin disorders, the organization's mission remains to: advance research, champion skin health particularly among children, and drive public awareness about skin disease. For more information, visit americanskin.org.
SOURCE American Skin Association