The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has named Dr. C. Thomas Caskey, professor in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, as the 2021 recipient of the annual William Allan Award.
The William Allan Award, which carries a $25,000 prize, recognizes substantial and far-reaching scientific contributions to human genetics and was established in 1961 in memory of
Dr. William Allan, (1881-1943), one of the first American physicians to conduct extensive research on human genetics and hereditary diseases.
“Dr. Caskey is one of the most respected scientists in our field and has made extraordinary contributions in our understanding of the molecular basis of disease," said Dr. Gail Jarvik, president of ASHG. “He has been a leader in research, education and public policy for human genetics for close to 50 years. His many contributions have affected all aspects of modern human genetics and its application to medicine.”
Caskey is a pioneer in human molecular genetics and genomics. His current research focuses on the application of whole genome sequencing and metabolomics of individuals to understand disease risk and its prevention.
“Tom’s research accomplishments coupled with his infectious enthusiasm, can-do attitude and aggressive promotion led the way for bringing modern molecular genetics into medicine. He has been an effective communicator of the excitement around human genetics,” said Dr. David Valle, Henry J. Knott Professor and director of the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, in his nomination letter.
“The breadth of Tom’s work is inspiring – from very basic molecular and genetics work to identification of human disease genes through implementation of emerging technologies to genetic testing and application in forensics,” said Dr. Louis J. Ptáček, Coleman Distinguished Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. “In addition to his accomplishments in research and training, Tom has also made his mark on development of policies regarding human genetic research and its application to diagnosis and treatment of patients with genetic diseases.”
Caskey began his research at Duke University, studying de novo purine allosteric regulation with Dr. James B. Wyngaarden. At the National Institutes of Health, under Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, he defined the ‘universality’ of the genetic code and discovered codon-specific proteins controlling translation termination. In 1971, he moved to Baylor College of Medicine and founded the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, now ranked No. 1 by funding in the United States. He has received numerous academic and industry honors. His genetic research identified the genetic basis of 25 major inheritable diseases and clarified the understanding of “anticipation” in triplet repeat diseases (Fragile X, myotonic dystrophy and more than 25 others). His personal identification patent is the basis of worldwide application for forensic science, and he also is a consultant to the FBI in forensic science.