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Sunney Xie Received Albany Prize


BIOPIC Director, Dr. Xiaoliang Sunney Xie just received Albany Medical Center Prize in Biomedicine and Biomedical Research for 2015, for pioneering tool developments of single-molecule biology, which lead to avoiding genetic diseases in IVF babies, and more.

Dr. Xie is the first Chinese scientist that received this honor. The other receipt of the prize this year is Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University. The prize was awarded at the Hilton Garden Inn on May 15th, Albany, New York State.

The $500,000 award has been given annually since 2001 to those who have altered the course of medical research and is one of the largest prizes in medicine and science in the United States.

“These two prolific scientists saw a need for new technology to help move their research forward and then actually developed it. Researchers worldwide are now using their techniques, including novel imaging and sequencing, which are fast providing insights into previously mysterious biological functions, especially those in the brain,” said Vincent Verdile, M.D., the Lynne and Mark Groban, M.D. ’69, Distinguished Dean of Albany Medical College and chair of the Albany Prize National Selection Committee.

Dr. Xie uses light induced signals, such as fluorescence, to probe previously invisible single molecules in living cells. The groundbreaking experiments, one described in 1998 in Science that allowed researchers to monitor enzymatic reactions of a single enzyme molecule in real time, and another reported in 2006 in Science and Nature that made it possible to watch, for the first time, the process of gene expression in a live cell one molecule at a time, allowed gene regulation to be investigated at an unprecedented level.

With these and more pioneering studies, Prof. Xie has played a leading role in the advancement of the field of single-cell biology, which has yielded new knowledge about how individual molecules and their behavior can affect cellular life and even human diseases.

In a recent advancement, Dr. Xie and his team made significant contribution to single-cell genomics by developing an accurate single-cell whole genome amplification method (MALBAC) that allows pinpointing where genomic changes occur in a single cancer cell. According to Xiaowei Zhuang, Ph.D., a Harvard colleague who is the David B. Arnold Professor of Science, the MALBEC technique, which enables reporting of nearly the entire genomic sequence of a single cell, has also already been utilized to select healthy embryos in in vitro fertilization (IVF).

“His recent innovations in single-cell genomics have not only led to important biological discoveries, but have also begun to make direct impact on human health by helping parents with genetic disorders to give birth to offspring free of these diseases,” said Dr. Zhuang.

Dr. Xie also pioneered coherent Raman scattering microscopy. Among other uses, this technique may soon be employed during surgery to distinguish whether a particular brain region has cancer that cannot be seen using more traditional imaging techniques.

Dr. Xie was born in Beijing, China, and received his B.S. in chemistry in 1984 from Peking University. He earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California San Diego, followed by postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago.

In 1992, Dr. Xie joined Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he later became a chief scientist. He joined Harvard in 1999, where he is now the Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

He founded Biodynamic Optical Imaging Center (BIOPIC), a technology-driven biomedical research center, in 2010, and act as its director since at Peking University.

His honors include the Peter Debye Award and the Harrison Howe Award of American Chemical Society, Biophysical Society Founders Award, E.O. Lawrence Award in Chemistry, Leibinger Innovation Prize, the NIH Directors Pioneer Award, and the Sackler Prize for Physical Sciences. Dr. Xie is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Albany Medical Center Prize was established in 2000 by the late Morris “Marty” Silverman, a New York City businessman and philanthropist who grew up in Troy, N.Y., to honor scientists whose work has demonstrated significant outcomes that offer medical value of national or international importance. A $50 million gift commitment from the Marty and Dorothy Silverman Foundation provides for the prize to be awarded annually for 100 years.

In total, 23 world-renowned investigators have been recipients of this prestigious award. Three previous Nobel Prize winners have been among the ranks of researchers honored, and five Albany Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., a leading stem cell scientist; Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., who discovered the molecular nature of telomeres; Bruce Beutler, M.D., and the late Ralph Steinman, M.D., for their discoveries regarding the detailed workings of the immune system; and Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., for his work on cell receptors.

For biography and downloadable photos of Xie, and more information on the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, visit: