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Dr. Bonnie Ramsey, professor and vice chair for research in pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine, is being recognized by the Alpert Foundation for her leadership in cystic fibrosis studies of Psuedomonas aeruginosa infections in the airways. This work has resulted in the development of better therapies for this debilitating condition.

Cystic fibrosis, or CF,  is a progressive, hereditary disorder that causes the buildup of abnormally thick mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. The condition results in persistent lung infections and, over time, limits the ability to breathe. CF affects some 75,000 people in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Life expectancy has improved steadily over the past several decades. The median age of survival in the United States and other developed countries is now estimated to be in the early 40s, compared with a only a few months for children born with cystic fibrosis in the late 1950s.

Scientific and clinical work by Ramsey and her international colleagues in the field contributed to this tremendous  improvement in the lives and the lifespans of those with the disorder. Ramsey practices at Seattle Children’s, and is also a researcher at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Over the past 20 years she has led a large study of the natural history of early Pseudomonas infections in young children with cystic fibrosis. This Early Pseudomonas Infection Control, or EPIC, study created one of the world’s largest data and  microbiological specimen collection from this population. Since the 1990s, she has explored  the role of inhaled antibiotics in treatment of Pseudomonas infections.  This research included the development of inhaled tobramycin (TOBI®) initially for patients with established infections and more recently for eradication of early infections.

For nearly the past two decades, Ramsey has directed the Coordinating Center for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics (CFFT) Development Network (TDN), a national clinical trials network that has successfully conducted therapeutic trials assisting in the development of novel treatments for patients with this disorder. Several of the drugs have reached FDA approval, significantly impacting the lives of patients with cystic fibrosis. She now serves as a Senior Consultant to the TDN.

Ramsey is among the five scientists honored by this year’s Alpert Foundation Award, which is administered by Harvard Medical School.  The scientists are in the fields of genetics, physiology, pulmonology and pharmacology. The Warren Alpert Foundation honors  scientists whose pioneering work has improved the understanding, prevention, treatment or cure of human disease.

This year’s five honorees will be recognized at a symposium on Oct. 4 at Harvard Medical School.

“Thanks to the discoveries made by the five award recipients,” the award announcement said, “his upward trend is likely to continue, with the advent of new therapies that repair the underlying disease-fueling protein malfunction and, in doing so, stave off organ damage and boost survival.

“I was shocked and humbled that I would be considered for this prestigious award with four outstanding scientists, Francis Collins, Lap-Chee Tsui, Michael Welsh and Paul Negulescu, ” she said. “The Alpert Award is very meaningful to me, especially as an alumna of Harvard Medical School. Receiving the award recognizes the scientific and therapeutic revolution that has occurred over the past three decades in the field of cystic fibrosis. The award also acknowledges the importance of team science spanning from basic to clinical investigation that is required to translate our understanding of molecular biology into life-changing new therapies. I am honored to receive this award.

Ramsey holds the Endowed Chair in Cystic Fibrosis at the University of Washington School of Medicine.  She is also the Director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and is the co-PI of the University of Washington Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) supported by the NCATS Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA). She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine

Dr. Ramsey received her BA from Stanford University in 1972 and her MD from Harvard Medical School in 1976. After pediatric residency training at Boston Children’s Hospital, she moved Seattle Children’s in 1978 first as a resident and fellow and then became an attending physician in 1980. She is also interested in the ethics of pediatric clinical research and has served on two Institute of Medicine committees focused on this topic.

The 2018 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize recipients, with links to their profiles are:

• Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health

• Paul Negulescu, Senior Vice President for Research, Vertex Pharmaceuticals

• Bonnie Ramsey, Vice Chair and Endowed Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine; Director, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Seattle Children’s Research Institute

• Lap-Chee Tsui, Founding President, The Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong; University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

• Michael Welsh, Professor of Internal Medicine—Pulmonary, Critical Care and Occupational Medicine, University of Iowa

“Over the years, the Warren Alpert Foundation has honored some of the most elegant and transformative scientific achievements of our time, and the work of this year’s recipients is the very embodiment of the spirit of the award,” said George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School. “More importantly, the five scientists’ collective work powerfully illustrates the promise of basic discoveries made in the lab to profoundly alter the lives of patients through collaboration among fundamental researchers, biochemists and frontline clinicians.”

The Warren Alpert Foundation Prize is given internationally. To date, the foundation has awarded more than $4 million to 64 scientists. Since the award’s inception in 1987, eight honorees have also received a Nobel Prize.

Negulescu, Ramsey, Tsui and Welsh will share $500,000 in prize money. Collins will decline the cash component of the award.

“The work of the five scientists we are honoring is a triumph of modern medicine,” Joseph Martin, director and chairman of the board of the Warren Alpert Foundation and former dean of Harvard Medical School. “We are humbled by the passion, dedication and acumen of a truly remarkable group of individuals whose achievements have touched the lives of patients and families across the world.”

Read the full release at the Warren Alpert Foundation site.


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