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NCI's Shiv Grewal Honored

  • Posted: May 16, 2014
Colored photo of  Shiv Grewal, Ph.D

Shiv Grewal, Ph.D., Chief, Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Election to the NAS is one of the highest honors for scientists, as it is given in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Grewal is among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 15 countries to be inducted to NAS, in a ceremony slated for April 2015. To date, the Academy membership encompasses over 2,200 members and 400 Foreign Honorary Members, of whom approximately 200 are Nobel laureates.

Grewal was also recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy is comprised of members from a range of disciplines, including mathematics, physical and biological sciences, medicine, humanities, social sciences, public affairs, business, government and the arts. Grewal will be inducted to the Academy membership in October 2014, joining members that include more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Many studies by Grewal have been of critical importance to cancer research, especially those in the field of epigenetics. His work has investigated how chromatin structure (the complex of DNA and proteins that are found in the nucleus of a cell) affects packaging of DNA in the cell nucleus to produce different gene expression patterns, developmental programs and cell fates. His work has also revealed that RNA, previously thought to simply convey genetic information for protein production, is a key cellular component that determines the state of chromatin at specific sites.

His research found that transcribed RNAs are processed via a cell’s  RNA interference (RNAi) pathway and other proteins, which contribute to compaction of chromatin into a repressed state (known as heterochromatin). These pathways are part of many epigenetic mechanisms that control the chromatin state, and that are critical for cellular response to stress and environmental conditions. Defects in this mechanism can lead to many diseases, including developmental disorders and cancer. Importantly, the reversibility of epigenetic changes provides new avenues to explore for cancer treatment.  Science  magazine cited the discovery of the connection between RNAi and heterochromatin formation as the “Breakthrough of the Year 2002.” Three papers from Grewal’s lab have been cited for historic discoveries over the past 50 years by the journal Nature.

Grewal’s research accolades include the 1999 Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award, the Demerec-Kaufmann Fellowship in 2000, and the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize. In addition, he has received an NIH Director's Award, an NIH Merit Award, and has also been named an NIH Distinguished Investigator.