The Dr. Richard and Vera Siegel Translational Award was generously endowed by NIH MD/PhD Partnership Program Co-Founder, Dr. Richard Siegel and his wife, Vera. First awarded in 2016, this annual award recognizes advances in the field of medical science that move fundamental discoveries from the bench to the bedside. The recipient of the Translational Award for 2019 was NIH-Cambridge Scholar Zinan Zhang. Zinan is an OxCam Class of 2017 Scholar and MD/PhD student at the Harvard Medical School. He is mentored by Dr. Michael Lenardo of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Prof. Ken Smith of the Cambridge Department of Medicine.
Zinan coordinated a multinational collaboration between the United Kingdom, the United States, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, and France to collect a group of pediatric patients that all have a novel genetic disease that he discovered involving the deficiency of the IL-2 receptor beta (IL2RB) chain. In addition to defining this new disease and demonstrating the molecular mechanism of defective IL-2 signaling in different patients, he developed novel insights into receptor function in different immune cell subsets. He was able to show how three different IL2RB mutations can cause IL2RB deficiency by three distinct mechanisms. Interestingly, one hypomorphic IL2RB mutation differentially affected T cells and Natural Killer cell subsets. In addition, lentiviral gene transfer was able to rescue the disease phenotype in patient cells.
Zinan’s work has opened a new area for translational research for this primary immunodeficiency disease. To learn more about his research and findings, he recently published a first-author publication in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
We congratulate Zinan on both his accolades, as he was also awarded the Best Talk at the Annual Workshop and wish him continued success in his doctoral career.