The scientists are being recognized by the Bruce and Cynthia Sherman Charitable Foundation, which created the Sherman Prize in 2016 to distinguish those who advance the medical care of people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Since the award’s inception, two Sherman Prizes have been given every year to two awardees in recognition of their pioneering contributions in the fields of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Meanwhile, a single Sherman Emerging Leader Prize also has been given each year to an early career investigator who shows great potential for groundbreaking future contributions to the field.
“In a year of unprecedented challenges, Cynthia and I are particularly honored to recognize these IBD leaders who have continued their exceptional work, while protecting vulnerable patients’ access to care at a time when they need it most,” Bruce Sherman, founder of the Sherman Prize, said in a press release.
“We thank these healthcare heroes and salute all those going above and beyond for patients during this critical time,” Sherman said.
This year’s awards will go to David T. Rubin, MD, professor of medicine and co-director of the Digestive Diseases Center at University of Chicago, and Gary D. Wu, MD, professor of gastroenterology and director of the Penn Center for Nutritional Science and Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine.
Rubin received the prize in recognition for his dedication to the IBD field and patient advocacy. His contribution to the field ranges from earlier research in which he demonstrated that bowel inflammation is one of the risk factors for colorectal cancer in IBD patients, to his most recent work on promoting patient education and care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wu was one of the first to investigate the relationship between diet and gut microbe composition in IBD patients. His work opened multiple research avenues into possible dietary treatment interventions for the disease. Now, he is focused on discovering the mechanisms by which food can cause, prevent, or treat different forms of IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
The Sherman Prize was given for Wu’s ability to bring together a multi-disciplinary team of investigators capable of translating his research findings to new therapies that can be put to use to help those with IBD in the clinic.
The winner of this year’s Emerging Leader Prize is Jessica R. Allegretti, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in Boston, and the associate director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center and director of the FMT program at Brigham and Women’s.
An expert in fecal microbiota transplants, Allegretti is currently attempting to establish the procedure as a treatment for IBD patients who frequently experience infections caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile.
Allegretti is leading a transplant program at the hospital.
A fecal microbiota transplant, also known as a stool transplant, is a procedure in which gut bacteria found in the stool of healthy people are placed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of a patient with IBD. By repopulating the patient’s GI tract with healthy gut bacteria, harmful bacteria like C. difficile are expected to be gradually eliminated.
This year’s award was given in recognition of Allegretti’s commitment to these hard-to-treat patients and for her efforts in promoting treatment accessibility. She recently opened her own IBD Center in New England, which is being visited by patients from all over the region and is also serving as a hub for ongoing clinical trials.
“For five years, my wife, Cynthia, and I have celebrated the achievements of healthcare professionals whose persistent efforts have made such a huge impact. And each year we’ve been awed by extraordinary individuals, like Drs. Gary Wu, David Rubin and Jessica Allegretti, who give so much of themselves to help people with IBD,” Sherman said.
The prizes will be presented by the selection committee Dec. 9, at the Advances in IBD (AIBD) Virtual Conference, being held online Dec. 9–12.
“Drs. Rubin, Wu and Allegretti inspire our community — showing that even in extraordinary times that tremendous advances against IBD are possible when outstanding talent meets passion, commitment and perseverance,” said Dermot P.B. McGovern, MD, PhD, chair of the Sherman Prize selection committee. “Their dedication to clinical care, research, and training exemplify all that is best in our community and give us hope that one day we will overcome these diseases.”