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Jeroen Saeij named 2010 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Biologist hopes to uncover new genetic risk factors for infectious disease as well as new therapies.
The Pew Charitable Trusts this week named Jeroen Saeij, MIT assistant professor of biology, as a 2010 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. The program enables scientists to take calculated risks, expand their research and explore unanticipated leads. Scholars receive $240,000 over four years and gain inclusion into a select community of scientists that includes three Nobel Prize winners, three MacArthur Fellows and two recipients of the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the program has invested more than $125 million to fund close to 500 scholars. Many of the nation’s best early-career scientists — working in all areas of physical and life sciences related to biomedical research — apply to the rigorously competitive program. Applicants are nominated by one of 155 invited institutions and demonstrate excellence and innovation in their research.

“Twenty-five years ago, The Pew Charitable Trusts identified a tremendous opportunity to impact the world of science by supporting the most promising young investigators and encouraging them to pursue their best ideas without restrictions,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Motivating scientists at this point in their careers is essential to advancing discovery and innovation, and Pew is honored to continue its commitment to this cadre of high-quality researchers.”

Saeij received his doctorate from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He conducted his postdoctoral research with John Boothroyd at Stanford University in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, where he studied the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

In 2007, he joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. Saeij’s research focuses on determining what specific characteristics of macrophages — immune-system cells that defend us from germs or other disease-causing microorganisms — determine how well they will respond to threats. He hypothesizes that many of the genes that are linked to an individual’s response to infectious disease are genes that directly affect how macrophages function. He is working to identify genes involved in changing the way macrophages respond to attack and analyzing what effect these changes have on the body’s response to infection. His findings may uncover both new genetic risk factors for infectious disease as well as new therapies.

Work by 2010 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences includes research related to cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and birth defects. For full biographies and information regarding the scholars’ research, please visit

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

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