Eric Lander speaks at the Mouse Genome Sequencing Press Conference on December 4, 2002
February 3, 1957 |
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
|Alma mater||Princeton University
University of Oxford
|Thesis||Topics in algebraic coding theory (1980)|
|Doctoral advisor||Peter Cameron|
|Doctoral students||Manolis Kellis
Erez Lieberman Aiden
|Other notable students||David Altshuler (postdoc)|
Eric Steven Lander (born February 3, 1957) is a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), former member of the Whitehead Institute, and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard who has devoted his career to realizing the promise of the human genome for medicine. He is co-chair of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In 2013 he was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work.
Lander's parents, Harold and Rhoda Lander, 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. At the age of seventeen, he wrote a paper on quasiperfect numbers for which he won the Westinghouse Prize. He attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1978 as valedictorian. He wrote his doctoral PhD thesis on algebraic coding theory and symmetric block designs at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, under the supervision of Peter Cameron. As a mathematician he 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." Unsure of what to do next, he took up a job teaching managerial economics at Harvard Business School; he also began to write a book on information theory. At the suggestion of his brother, 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; this in turn led to studying microbiology and continued down to the level of 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."
His studies introduced him to 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. Lander then joined Whitehead Institute (1986) and later joined MIT as a geneticist. In 1987, he was given the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. In 1990 he founded the WICGR (Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research). WICGR became one of the world's leading centers of genome research, and under Lander's leadership, it has made great progress in developing new methods of analysing mammalian genomes. The Whitehead Institute has also made important breakthroughs in applying this information to the study of human variation and particularly the study of medical genetics. The WICGR formed the basis for the foundation of the Broad Institute, a transformation in which Lander was instrumental.
Contributions to genomics 
There were two main groups attempting to sequence the human genome: the first was the Human Genome Project (HGP), the publicly funded effort that intended to publish the information it obtained so the public could use it freely and without restrictions. This was a collaborative effort involving many research groups from countries all over the world. The second effort was undertaken by Celera Genomics who 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. Upon the entrance of the private entity Celera into 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 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 by Celera first, and then patented by Celera.
In 2001, the public draft of the human genome was published in the journal Nature. The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Center for Genome Research, is listed first (the order was according to total genomic sequence contributed). Lander is the first author named.
The WICGR has also made a leading contribution to the sequencing of the mouse genome. 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, the pufferfish, the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa and multiple relatives of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, 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 may be his development of a molecular taxonomy for cancers. 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 on an online course "7.00x Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life" on EdX platform.
Translational Ventures 
Lander is a founding advisor of Foundation Medicine, a company that aims to bring comprehensive cancer genomic analysis to routine clinical care. He is also a co-founder of Verastem, biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by targeting cancer stem cells.
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.
Lander also is featured in "MIT Gangnam Style", an MIT student-produced parody of the "Gangnam Style" music video which was an Internet phenomenon in 2012. A highlight of the video occurs when Lander is interrupted while teaching (in MIT's largest lecture hall, 26-100), and he joins the dancer by leaping up onto a lab bench and doing some exuberant dance moves of his own.
Selected works 
- In Wake of Genetic Revolution, Questions About Its Meaning, in The New York Times, September 12, 2000, 
See also 
||This article uses bare URLs for citations. (April 2013)|
- Eric S. Lander, Ph.D. Career Highlights
- Chakravarti, A. (2012). "2011 Introduction to Curt Stern Award". The American Journal of Human Genetics 90 (3): 405–406. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.02.015. PMID 22405085.
- 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.
- Lander, E. S. (2004). "Eric S. Lander". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 3 (9): 730. doi:10.1038/nrd1514. PMID 15368656.
- Hopkin, Karen. "Eric S. Lander, Ph.D.". Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- Lander, Eric (1980). Topics in algebraic coding theory (PhD thesis). University of Oxford. http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?doc=oxfaleph016690714.
- Lander, E. S.; Botstein, D. (1987). "Homozygosity mapping: A way to map human recessive traits with the DNA of inbred children". Science 236 (4808): 1567–1570. doi:10.1126/science.2884728. PMID 2884728.
- Lander, E. S.; Botstein, D. (1986). "Strategies for studying heterogeneous genetic traits in humans by using a linkage map of restriction fragment length polymorphisms". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 83 (19): 7353–7357. doi:10.1073/pnas.83.19.7353. PMC 386715. PMID 2876423.
- http://www.usasciencefestival.org/about/advisors retrieved 2010-07-05
- Lander, Eric S.; Linton, M.; Birren, B.; Nusbaum, C.; Zody, C.; Baldwin, J.; Devon, K.; Dewar, K. 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.
- Lander, E. S. (2011). "Initial impact of the sequencing of the human genome". Nature 470 (7333): 187–197. doi:10.1038/nature09792. PMID 21307931.
- Chinwalla, A. T.; Cook, L. L.; Delehaunty, K. D.; Fewell, G. A.; Fulton, L. A.; Fulton, R. S.; Graves, T. A.; Hillier, L. W. et al. (2002). "Initial sequencing and comparative analysis of the mouse genome". Nature 420 (6915): 520–562. doi:10.1038/nature01262. PMID 12466850.
- http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=eric+lander Eric Lander in Google Scholar
- Golub, T. R.; Slonim, D.; Tamayo, P.; Huard, C.; Gaasenbeek, M.; Mesirov, J.; Coller, H.; Loh, M. et al. (1999). "Molecular Classification of Cancer: Class Discovery and Class Prediction by Gene Expression Monitoring". Science 286 (5439): 531–537. doi:10.1126/science.286.5439.531. PMID 10521349.
- http://www.foundationmedicine.com/about-founding-advisors.php Foundation medicine
- Pourian, Jessica J. (November 6, 2012). "MIT Gangnam Style: gone viral". The Tech. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
- Landergan, Katherine (October 31, 2012). "Noam Chomsky appears in M.I.T. 'Gangnam Style' parody". boston.com. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
Further reading 
- Kolata, Gina, "Profiles in Science: Eric Lander: Power in Numbers", The New York Times, January 3, 2012
- Lander at MIT
- Introduction to biology video lectures at MIT
- MIT Broad Institute Bio
- Eric Lander: America's Best Leaders
- An interview with CNN
- Article on Eric Lander
- Video of Lander speaking at MIT
- Verastem, a company co-founded by Lander.
- Foundation Medicine, a company of which Lander is a founding advisor.