Harvard genetics expert Charles Lee named scientific director at JAX Genomic Medicine

Farmington, Conn., May 20, 2013 – Harvard genetics expert Charles Lee, Ph.D., has been appointed scientific director of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine.

Lee is a world-renowned scientist best known for his discovery that copy-number variation – a state in which cells have an abnormal number of copies of DNA sections, sometimes associated with susceptibility or resistance to disease – is widespread and significant in the human genome. This discovery, and his subsequent pioneering research, has provided the tools that clinicians around the world need to help them make accurate diagnoses for genetic testing of conditions such as autism, birth defects and cancer.

Lee currently directs both the molecular genetics research unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the cytogenetics facility for the Harvard Cancer Center in Boston.

For his discoveries and research into the human genome, Dr. Lee has received numerous accolades and awards including the 2008 Ho-Am Prize in Medicine, often referred to as the Korean version of the Nobel Prize, and a Chen Global Investigator award from the International Human Genome Organization. He is also an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Edison Liu, M.D., president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory, said Lee “is uniquely qualified to lead our entire effort around the clinical implications of genomic medicine. He represents the next generation of scientific leaders in translational sciences with national and global recognition.”

Lee will be responsible for the scientific direction and coordination of JAX Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn., one of three campuses of The Jackson Laboratory. JAX Genomic Medicine was founded in 2012 to identify the precise genetic causes of diseases and spur the development of individualized plans of treatment and prevention.

“I believe in the leadership, vision and collaborative approach that The Jackson Laboratory brings to biomedical research,” Lee said. “JAX Genomic Medicine will be dedicated to combining JAX’s expertise in genetics and genomics with the clinical experiences of partners in Connecticut hospitals. Together, we will develop sophisticated, precision clinical testing and usher in new treatments for cancer and other diseases for residents of Connecticut and beyond.”

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hailed Lee’s appointment as another major milestone for the new JAX Genomic Medicine facility and the state’s investment in a growing biomedical research economy.

“Dr. Lee is an excellent addition to Connecticut’s scientific community,” Malloy said. “His work will highlight our leadership in the bioscience sector and our commitment to creating good paying jobs with good benefits. With our investment in JAX and the bioscience industry, we have turned a corner on decades of no job growth. We are attracting the top minds to Connecticut, and we are poised to lead the country into the future of medicine. Dr. Lee is a great asset to The Jackson Laboratory and to our scientists, researchers and bioscience partners.”

After earning his Ph.D. in 1996 at the University of Alberta in Canada, Lee held research fellowships at Cambridge University in England and Harvard Medical School. He then joined the faculty in pathology at Harvard Medical School and rose rapidly to his current positions, introducing state-of-the-art clinical genetic tests as a board-certified clinical cytogeneticist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, while advancing his research program at Harvard.

Lee has authored more than 130 papers in top-tiered scientific journals and has held advisory roles for numerous national organizations including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG).

“I am thrilled that Charles will be coming as director of JAX Genomic Medicine,” said Richard Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Genetics, professor of medicine and chair of the department of genetics at Yale University. “He has a stellar record of discovery in genomic analysis, and my colleagues and I at Yale greatly look forward to working with Charles and JAX to advance human health.”

Jackson Trustee David Valle, M.D., Ph.D., Henry J. Knott Professor and director of the Institute of Genetic Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said, “Charles Lee is an internationally recognized leader in molecular cytogenetics and the application of genomic medicine. His clinical expertise will advance the translational focus of JAX Genomic Medicine, and his international presence will broaden JAX's visibility globally. Equally important is that he is a terrific colleague and an outstanding leader.”

Cynthia Morton, Ph.D., president-elect of the American Society of Human Genetics and the William Lambert Richardson Professor of Harvard Medical School, said, "The Jackson Laboratory has selected an exceptional human and medical geneticist to lead JAX Genomic Medicine. Having worked with Dr. Lee over the past 12 years at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), I am constantly amazed by his management skills, his scholarship and his citizenship. We will miss him terribly at BWH, but always knew he was destined for something very special like JAX Genomic Medicine."

JAX Genomic Medicine is currently located in temporary quarters on the UConn Health Center campus while a 189,000-square-foot permanent facility is under construction nearby. The new facility will open in the fall of 2014 and will employ 300 scientists and operational staff within the next 10 years and 600 employees within 20 years.

The Jackson Laboratory, founded in 1929, is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs a total staff of more than 1,450. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.

Brigham and Women's Hospital is a 747-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery network. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, involving more than 860 physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by more than $416 million in funding. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative.