2011: David A. Williams

Morten Grove-Rasmussen Award


David A. Williams, MD

The Morten Grove-Rasmussen Award was established in 1976 to honor Dr. Morten Grove-Rasmussen, who, as Blood Bank Director of the Transfusion Service at Massachusetts General Hospital, became known as a leader in the field. It is awarded to an individual/group that has made a significant contribution to the field of Transfusion Medicine.

Dr. Williams' major research interests are in the study of blood stem cell biology, blood formation, leukemia and the treatment of genetic blood diseases using gene therapy. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts and textbook chapters. He was an investigator for HHMI for 16 years. He has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1986. His laboratory co-discovered and cloned Interleukin-11 (Neumegae) and carried out developmental studies that assisted in obtaining FDA approval of this drug. His laboratory also described the use of fibronectin in retrovirus-mediated gene transfer, now nearly universally used (as Retronecting) in clinical gene therapy trials and basic research utilizing gene transfer.

Dr. Williams' basic research has focused on hematopoietic stem cell biology and specifically molecular and biochemical analysis of the interaction between hematopoietic stem cells and the bone marrow supporting environment. This work has recently focused on the roles of Rho GTPases in stem cell engraftment, retention and mobilization from the bone marrow. His laboratory has defined Rac GTPases (Racl, Rac2, in particular) as key regulator switches that control stem cell adhesion, migration and survival/proliferation in the adult bone marrow cavity and during fetal development in yolk sac, fetal liver and other embryonic sites. His laboratory has also recently demonstrated that Rac GTPases are essential signaling molecules in BCR-ABL oncogene transformation of hematopoietic stem cells. He and Dr. Yi Zheng (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center) have developed a new small molecule inhibitor of Rac GTPases that is being investigated as a molecular target in cancer therapies. His laboratory is investigating the role of several other Rho GTPases in normal and abnormal hematopoiesis.

Dr. Williams is currently the Chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology and Director of Translational Research, Children's Hospital Boston, and the Leland Fikes Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Williams participates in the care of children with genetic and other hematologic diseases of the blood. He has specific expertise in caring for children with Fanconi anemia. He currently attends on the Hematology service at Children's Hospital Boston and is the Director of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Training Program at Children's Hospital Boston and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He is a member of the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) and the Gene Transfer Safety Assessment Board (NIH/RAC) and has been active in development and implementation of multiple human gene therapy trials.