News | AHA | November 03, 2023

Dr. Marlene Rabinovitch to Receive the 2023 AHA Research Achievement Award

Marlene Rabinovitch, MD, Stanford University

Marlene Rabinovitch, MD, Stanford University


November 3, 2023 — The American Heart Association will present its 2023 Research Achievement Award to Marlene Rabinovitch, M.D., of Stanford University. The Research Achievement Award will be recognized during the Presidential Session on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, at the Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023. The meeting, to be held in Philadelphia, Saturday, Nov. 11 through Monday, Nov. 13, is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science. 

Throughout her nearly 40-year career as a physician scientist, Dr. Rabinovitch’s research has focused on pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare condition with 500-1,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. PAH is a serious, progressive condition impacting the heart’s ability to pump blood through the lungs, and while it can be managed with medication, there is no cure for PAH. This high blood pressure in the lungs may occur in childhood, but most often affects women between the ages of 30 and 60 who report increased shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations and chest pain. 

Dr. Rabinovitch’s efforts led to two monumental discoveries in the treatment of PAH. The first is the identification of neutrophil elastase as being responsible for triggering the inflammatory responses that damage lung blood vessels. Her research suggests that suppressing this elastase may reduce the progression of PAH by opening up narrowed lung blood vessels and regenerating normal ones. Currently, she is working to coordinate a follow-up, phase-2 study to further evaluate the efficacy of an elastase inhibitor for people with PAH. Her second discovery is that low doses of the immunosuppressant FK506, most commonly used to prevent organ rejection after a transplant, may restore cell behavior and reverse narrowing of lung blood vessels in people with PAH. Development of a phase-3 study to further evaluate the use of FK506 to improve the lung blood vessels in people with PAH is currently under consideration, and if successful, FK506 would be an accessible, affordable treatment option for people with PAH. 

“It’s my great honor to recognize my Stanford colleague Dr. Marlene Rabinovitch with this year’s Research Achievement Award,” said the Association’s 2023-2024 volunteer President Joseph C. Wu, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA. “Dr. Rabinovitch’s work is focused on effective treatment options for both adults and children with pulmonary arterial hypertension, for which we currently have no cure. Her work around PAH is remarkable and will help to improve survival rates and quality of life for those with PAH. Congratulations, Marlene!” 

Dr. Rabinovitch, a board-certified pediatric cardiologist, is the Dwight and Vera Dunlevie Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. She is the director of the Basic Science and Engineering Initiative at the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health and a staff scientist at the Vera Moulton Wall Center for Pulmonary Vascular Disease at Stanford. Additionally, Dr. Rabinovitch is the head of the cardiopulmonary research laboratory in the department of pediatrics and the division of cardiology at the Stanford School of Medicine. 

“It is indeed an honor to receive this award from the American Heart Association, and I accept it with gratitude for the support of my research program and for fostering the careers of so many of our trainees,” said Dr. Rabinovitch. “When I began my career as a physician scientist, there were virtually no survivors within a few years after being diagnosed with severe pulmonary arterial hypertension. Over the past decades, enormous advances have been made in the treatment of this disease and it has been a privilege to have contributed to these efforts. I am thankful to the Association for elevating research in pulmonary arterial hypertension, for celebrating the many contributions of my creative and perseverant trainees, and of my colleagues, whose research informs and inspires us.” 

Dr. Rabinovitch earned a bachelor’s degree and a medical doctorate from McGill University. She completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at the University of Colorado Medical Center, and she completed a clinical and a research fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She held the Robert M. Freedom Chair and was professor of pediatrics (cardiology) at the Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto before joining Stanford University. 

Dr. Rabinovitch has been honored by the Association previously with the Paul Dudley White Lecture in 2002, the Basic Research Prize in 2004 and the Dickinson Richards Lecture in 2005. She was recognized as a distinguished scientist in 2006 and gave the Distinguished Scientist Lecture in 2017. This year, she will give the Kenneth D. Bloch Memorial Lecture. From the American Thoracic Society, she received the Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishment in 2008 and the Robert F. Grover Prize in 2016, the year she gave the J. Burns Amberson lecture. Dr. Rabinovitch is the author of more than 300 journal articles and holds a U.S. patent for the use of FK506 in the treatment of PAH. 

For more information: www.heart.org 


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