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John Harris receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists

By Sarah Willey

UMass Medical School Communications

July 12, 2019
John E. Harris, MD, PhD

John E. Harris, MD, PhD, has been named a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

“It’s a huge honor to receive recognition for our work from the government, both the highest office of the president, as well as the National Institutes of Health,” said Dr. Harris, associate professor of dermatology and director of the UMass Medical School Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center.

Harris uses basic, translational and clinical research approaches to better understand autoimmunity in vitiligo, with a particular focus on developing more effective treatments. In June, he announced data from a clinical trial that was investigating a new topical treatment for vitiligo. According to the study, subjects who used a JAK inhibitor saw significant improvement in their skin, while the group who used the placebo cream did not see improvement.

“Ultimately, we want to give vitiligo patients treatments that last a long time. Importantly, the trainees in my lab deserve this recognition as well, as they work with passion, intensity and incredible insight to help the patients who really need it,” he said.

Harris earned his MD and PhD degrees at UMMS, and his PhD thesis was focused on the loss of autoimmune tolerance in juvenile diabetes. He now advises multiple graduate students, MD/PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in his research lab at UMMS and teaches medical students and residents in his vitiligo clinic. 

The PECASE award winners will be honored on July 25 at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Related stories on UMassMedNow:
LISTEN: John Harris describes research into better treatments for vitiligo in ‘Voices of UMassMed’
John Harris lab identifies new pathway to reverse vitiligo
John Harris sheds light on treatments for vitiligo in WBZ-TV segment
UMass Medical School vitiligo expert discusses common skin condition
Telegram story raises awareness of vitiligo, an autoimmune disease afflicting 70 million people