Katherine A. Rauen, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and a physician-scientist affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute and UC Davis Children’s Hospital, has received a 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.
The award was announced by the White House on its website on Dec. 23. The honorees will receive their awards during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., later this year.
The Presidential Early Career Awards express the high priority that the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges and contribute to the American economy, the White House website states.
“The impressive achievements of these early-stage scientists and engineers are promising indicators of even greater successes ahead,” President Barack Obama said of the recipients. “We are grateful for their commitment to generating the scientific and technical advancements that will ensure America’s global leadership for many years to come.”
Rauen is an internationally respected leader in studying the Ras/MAPK pathway genetic syndromes, and coined the term “RASopathies.” Ras/MAPK regulates cell growth, which is critical for normal fetal development and, when dysregulated, can cause cancer.
She is one of only 102 scientists nationwide to receive the honor. Recipients are selected from among individuals who are either funded or employed by federal departments and agencies. Rauen was honored for her studies on the role of germline mutations in the Ras/MAPK pathway on skeletal myogenesis. She is one of 35 awardees acknowledged through their association with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and one of the 20 National Institutes of Health honorees. She is one of only eight recipients in the University of California system.
“I am honored beyond belief to receive this prestigious award,” Rauen said. “The recognition of this clinical translational work on the RASopathies is the result of what was truly a team effort, and we look forward to continuing this very important research.”
Rauen acknowledged her research collaborator Bill Tidyman of UC San Francisco and the "caring and compassionate" genetic counselors who supported the novel NF/Ras Clinic, which provides best practices for RASopathy patients worldwide. She also acknowledged the dedicated families who support her research in genomic medicine, including CFC International, the Costello Syndrome Family Network/Costello Kids, N.F. Inc. California and the Noonan Syndrome Support Group.
Rauen recently was named the chief of the Division of Genomic Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics. Prior to coming to UC Davis, she was acting-chief of medical genetics, director of the medical genetics residency program and director the NF/Ras Pathway Genetics Clinic at UC San Francisco, which she founded in 2007.
“This award is evidence of the high clinical significance and innovation of Dr. Rauen’s research. Her focus on RASopathies brings a new dimension to the MIND Institute,” said Leonard Abbeduto, MIND Institute executive director. “At the same time, it is likely that the Ras/MAPK pathway is altered in some of the other neurodevelopmental disorders we already study, and thus, there is the potential for synergy and collaboration.”
At UC San Francisco, Rauen led a research team that discovered the genetic cause of cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome (CFC), one of the RASopathies. CFC is a genetic disorder that affects many parts of the body, particularly the heart, facial features, skin and hair. She serves on the medical advisory board of CFC International and is a co-director of the Costello Syndrome Family Network.
"This award is a fantastic and well-deserved tribute to Katherine Rauen’s amazing work,” said Robin Steinhorn, chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “We look forward to great success in the future with UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s new program in genomic medicine and Dr. Rauen at its helm."
UC Davis School of Medicine Executive Associate Dean Fredrick Meyers also congratulated Rauen on her accomplishment.
"Dr. Rauen brings extraordinary experience and expertise to UC Davis Health System," Meyers said. "Her special focus on medical genetics will be a tremendous asset in the ongoing advancement and integration of human genomics into education, patient care and research at the health system."
The Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.
Rauen earned her master's degree in human physiology and her doctorate in genetics at UC Davis. She earned a medical degree at UC Irvine and completed residency training in pediatrics and a fellowship in medical genetics at UC San Francisco.