Joshua Weinstein receives Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation announced Asst. Prof. Joshua Weinstein as a recipient of its 2021 Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. The award recognizes his work developing DNA microscopy, which allows researchers to probe as-yet inaccessible layers of biological complexity.

“There are two arms to development of any branch of medicine,” Weinstein said. “One is basic science, and the other is technology development. The goal is to build powerful partnerships between folks who are working on both sides. This award is an endorsement of that vision.”

Rooted in the technology development branch, Weinstein invented DNA microscopy, an imaging platform that both identifies new genetic mutations and physically maps the interface between mutated cells. He will use the award’s funding to apply this technology and identify tumor-specific therapeutic neoantigens, or mutated protein fragments in tumor cells, that could be used as anti-tumor vaccines.

“If we have more information about those mutants and the ways in which the immune system is interacting with the mutated cancer cells, we will be able to do better at identifying mutant genes that could function as anti-tumor vaccines,” Weinstein says. “The goal of this project is to build a platform that will allow us to do that. With more information, we can do better than what we’re doing.”

As part of the award, Weinstein will receive an initial grant of $400,000 over two years.

In total, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awarded $2.65 million to seven early-career scientists with a clear vision, novel approach, and passion for curing cancer. Examples of success stories from past award recipients include the development of gene-editing technology CRISPR and single-cell sequencing techniques that are transforming cancer research and biomedical sciences.

The Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovators program was established by Andy and Debbie Rachleff.