NOMIS announces recipients of 2022 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award

June 9, 2022

The NOMIS Foundation is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2022 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award—congratulations to Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Cambridge and to Thomas A. Rando of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In recognition of their outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and human progress through their pioneering, innovative and collaborative research, the NOMIS Award is enabling the scientists to continue this noble endeavor in their respective fields.

Established in 2016, the NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award is presented to pioneering scientists and scholars who, through their innovative, groundbreaking research, have made a significant contribution to their respective fields and who inspire the world around them. Their bold ideas and unique approaches involve interdisciplinary collaboration and apply a broad range of methods, building bridges across the boundaries of disciplines. The award will be presented to the recipients at a ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, in October this year.

NOMIS Awardee Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz is the Bren Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech; US) and professor of stem cell biology and development at the University of Cambridge (UK). She is a biologist who has made crucial contributions to our understanding of early mammalian development. She uncovered that cell fate determination in the mouse embryo was biased at a much earlier stage than previously believed and identified the epigenetic and transcriptional regulatory molecules responsible. Additionally, Zernicka-Goetz demonstrated that aneuploid cells that arise in both mouse and human development are subject to programmed cell death in the pluripotent lineage that makes the progeny, but not in the supportive and transient placental lineages. She developed the first in vitro culture system allowing human embryos to develop through the implantation stages to day 14; these allowed her to identify crucial signaling centers for human embryo development. Her models that reconstitute synthetic embryos from embryonic and extra-embryonic stem cells are bringing enormous insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control previously unexplored aspects of early mammalian development.

Through her NOMIS-supported project, Opening the Black Box of Human Implantation, Zernicka-Goetz aims to illuminate the journey of an embryo from a fertilized single cell to a complex structure with multiple cell types and to discover the key pathways and events that set the stage for proper development. Her research will recreate and reveal a period of human development—the beginning of life—that has been entirely inaccessible until now and could lead to clinical interventions for many diseases, from developmental disorders to infertility.

NOMIS Awardee Thomas A. Rando

Thomas A. Rando

Thomas A. Rando is the director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine and of molecular, cell and developmental biology in the School of Life Sciences at the UCLA (US). A renowned neurologist and stem cell biologist, Rando’s research has revealed how stem cells respond to cues from their environment to modulate their ability to maintain tissues or engage in tissue repair. His laboratory is credited with pioneering work in stem cell aging that revealed how factors in blood can promote stem cell activity in young individuals and suppress it in older individuals. This work has led to novel clinical trials for age-related disorders.

His NOMIS-supported project, Stem Cell Quiescence: A Microcosm of Evolutionary Survival Mechanisms, is enabling him to investigate stem cell quiescence—a dormant, highly resilient state that enables long-term survival of stem cells. Rando’s research will provide unprecedented detail regarding the molecular regulation of stem cell quiescence as well as molecular insights into a cellular model of the evolutionary trade-off between survival and reproduction, a trade-off that is at the very core of the evolution of species.

Learn more about past NOMIS Awardees