Elise Courtois wins Women of Innovation award

A group of award winners and presenters at the Women of Innovation 2023.

A scientist from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) who is leading endometriosis and women’s health research in Connecticut is the winner of the Connecticut Technology Council’s Women of Innovation award in the research innovation and leadership category.

Exploring the genetics of endometriosis

Elise Courtois, Ph.D., director of single cell biology and senior research scientist at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington Conn., uses cutting edge technologies like single cell and spatial ‘omics to better understand endometriosis, with the hope that her research will provide answers about this overlooked and misunderstood condition. Endometriosis affects an estimated one in 10 female-born individuals, and little is known about the factors that lead to this condition, which can cause debilitating pain and infertility.

Courtois, in partnership with UConn Health gynecologist Danielle Luciano, M.D., is studying tissue samples from endometriosis patients one cell at a time to learn how endometriosis develops, progresses, and spreads, with the ultimate goal of finding new biomarkers for better diagnostics and therapeutics.

Working for awareness and change

In addition to her research, Courtois is a leading advocate for endometriosis awareness. She is an active member of Connecticut State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest’s Endometriosis Working Group, established in 2021 to increase awareness of endometriosis, expand access to care, and propose new legislation. One of the group’s goals was the creation of an endometriosis data and biorepository program, the first public, multi-institution biorepository of its kind in the nation. In June of 2023, the Connecticut legislature unanimously passed House Bill 6672, “An Act Concerning Endometriosis,” which enables the creation of the biorepository program, increases education and promotes awareness – positioning Connecticut to become a hub for endometriosis research and innovation.

Due to her tireless advocacy efforts with the Working Group, Courtois was instrumental in the passage of this historic bill. The biorepository program, co-founded by Dr. Courtois, will operate through a partnership between UConn Health and JAX and will enable the collection and combination of surgical, clinical and biological information from patients statewide.

Courtois was selected as one of seven Women of Innovation winners from 34  finalists, representing more than 80 nominees. The research innovation and leadership category recognizes women who have developed new knowledge or products in a corporate or academic setting.

“I am so honored to be presented with a Woman of Innovation award, and to be recognized for my work in endometriosis,” said Courtois. “I am hopeful that continued research will result in answers for those living with this condition. Thank you to the Connecticut Tech Council!”