Dr. John Hanna is the recipient of the 2019 American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) Cotran Early Career Investigator Award. This award recognizes individuals in the early stages of their career who have demonstrated excellence as investigators and have recently established independence and a research focus leading to an improved understanding of the conceptual basis of disease. The award was named in honor of Dr. Ramzi Cotran, a longtime member of ASIP who was widely recognized as one of the most distinguished and influential academic pathologists of the United States in the 20th century.
Dr. Hanna is an anatomic pathologist and cell biologist, board-certified in both anatomic pathology and dermatopathology. He joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School (HMS) as Instructor in 2013 and was promoted three years later to Assistant Professor of Pathology, where he teaches graduate and medical students. He also works as an Associate Pathologist in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and maintains a clinical practice in dermatopathology. He runs an independent laboratory, consisting of six members, that has already had eight primary research articles published with Dr. Hanna listed as corresponding or co-corresponding author. By splitting his time between scientific investigations (80% effort) and clinical practice (20% effort), Dr. Hanna is able to ensure a close connection between his basic science studies and human disease.
Dr. Hanna’s work has been published, featured, or reviewed in well-regarded peer-reviewed journals including Cell, Nature, Science, Molecular Cell, The Journal of Cell Biology, and Trends In Cell Biology and cited over 3,500 times (h-ndex: 17). He has published nearly continuously from his time as a graduate student; of his 28 publications, 22 relate to basic scientific investigation, while the other six relate to his clinical investigations, including the discovery of a previously unrecognized human papillomavirus-associated tumor of the oral mucosa.
The focus of Dr. Hanna’s scientific investigations is the ubiquitin-proteasome system for protein degradation, a pathway relevant to a number of human diseases. He has worked in this field for 17 years, first as a graduate student, then as a post-doctoral researcher, and now as a principal investigator. His work has led to major changes in our understanding of the ubiquitin system, including the identification of a potential novel drug target for diseases characterized by protein misfolding. Dr. Hanna and his team have developed a small molecule inhibitor of this protein, which has shown promise in a number of pre-clinical disease contexts. This work has been successfully patented, and the intellectual property has been licensed by HMS to a biotech company, Proteostasis, and subsequently sub-licensed to the pharmaceutical company Biogen Idec.
Dr. Hanna holds a BS with distinction from Stanford University and an MD and PhD (earned simultaneously) from Harvard Medical School (HMS). His dissertation was on Functional Analysis of Ubp6, a Proteasome-Associated Deubiquitinating Enzyme (2006). He subsequently completed pathology residency training and a fellowship in dermatopathology at BWH and post-doctoral research training at HMS.
He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including but not limited to President’s Scholar (1997, Stanford), the Boothe Prize for excellence in writing (1998, Stanford), the Firestone Medal for excellence in research (2001, Stanford), Karnovsky Fellow for excellence in research (2004-2006, HMS), and the James Tolbert Shipley Prize for excellence in research (2009, HMS). In 2014, Dr. Hanna was selected for an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, a five-year R01-equivalent that supports outstanding junior scientists with the intellect, scientific creativity, drive, and maturity to flourish independently, launch independent research careers, and bypass the traditional postdoctoral training period.
He is also a member of several professional societies including ASIP and the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB).
In the words of Jeffrey Golden, Ramzi S. Cotran Professor of Pathology at HMS and Chair of Pathology at BWH, Dr. Hanna is “an emerging leader [with] a very bright future as one of the most promising young scientists I know. He has a long track record of significant and innovative discovery...the ability and interest to bring his considerable expertise in the basic mechanisms of protein degradation to bear on the large and diverse range of human diseases related to proteostasis dysfunction [and] he is ideally suited to bridge this divide, being also a practicing pathologist. John represents the best and brightest of our young pathology investigators and I cannot imagine a more deserving recipient of the Cotran Early Investigator Award.”
Dr. Hanna will receive the Cotran Early Investigator Award at the 2018 PISA Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he will present an award lecture.