UI researcher included in elite group to win global biomedical science prize

Date: Friday, February 10, 2023

Welsh and others cited for novel cystic fibrosis treatment 

University of Iowa researcher Michael Welsh, MD, is one of four researchers who will receive the 21st annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences for discoveries leading to the creation of cystic fibrosis (CF) treatments that have improved—and extended—the lives of patients living with CF.  

Welsh, professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and director of the UI Pappajohn Biomedical Institute, will share the award with Paul Negulescu, Fredrick Van Goor, and Sabine Hadida from Vertex Pharmaceuticals, for research and development leading to medicines that effectively treat CF. The treatments work by correcting the folding, trafficking, and functioning of the mutated cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR).

"I am honored to receive this award from the Wiley Foundation,” says Welsh, who also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, neurology, and neurosurgery at the UI. “I appreciate the foundation’s recognition that the arc leading to effective therapies begins with description of a disease, progresses through discovery of fundamental mechanisms, and proceeds through development of treatments. I feel so fortunate for the opportunities I have had, and I am truly grateful for my trainees, my colleagues, the environment at Iowa, the participation of our patients in the research, and my family.”  

Welsh, who has been at the UI for almost his entire career, has been leading groups of scientists studying lung biology and cystic fibrosis for almost 40 years. His work on the fundamental biology of CF disease helped pave the way for the new therapies developed by the Vertex team. 

“This award recognizes a decades-long effort to determine what is wrong with mutated CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) in cystic fibrosis patients and the subsequent discovery of three drugs that work in novel ways to correct the folding and channel defects of mutant CFTR. The combination of fundamental research by Mike Welsh at the University of Iowa, and drug discovery by Paul Negulescu, Sabine Hadida, and Fred Van Goor at Vertex has improved the lives of thousands of cystic fibrosis patients,” said Dr. Titia de Lange of Rockefeller University, Chairperson of the Wiley Prize awards jury.

“The Wiley Foundation honors research that not only offers breakthrough solutions to existing problems in biomedical sciences, but also fuels future discoveries,” said Deborah Wiley, Chair of the Wiley Foundation. The work of the 2023 Wiley Prize recipients truly upholds this mission, recognizing a milestone in public health that has uncovered the cause and treatment for 90% of cystic fibrosis patients, improving the lives of those impacted by this genetic disorder.”

About Wiley

Wiley is one of the world’s largest publishers and a global leader in scientific research and career-connected education. Founded in 1807, Wiley enables discovery, powers education, and shapes workforces. Through its industry-leading content, digital platforms, and knowledge networks, the company delivers on its timeless mission to unlock human potential. Visit Wiley.com or follow Wiley on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram

First awarded in 2002, The Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences is presented annually to recognize contributions that have opened new fields of research or have advanced concepts in a particular biomedical discipline. Among the many distinguished recipients of the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences, nine have gone on to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and two have gone on to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  

“We are incredibly proud of Dr. Welsh and all that he has accomplished at Iowa, and we are so pleased to see him honored with this award,” says Brooks Jackson, MD, MBA, UI vice president for medical affairs and the Tyrone D. Artz Dean of the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. “Dr. Welsh is the consummate physician-scientist—endlessly curious about big scientific questions yet constantly grounded by how answering those questions will make patients’ lives better. He also is an amazing mentor and colleague who has been a guiding force for our research community for decades.” 

This year’s award of $50,000 will be presented to the winners at the Wiley Prize lecture, delivered as part of The Rockefeller University Lecture Series at 11:00 am EST on March 31, 2023. This event will be live-streamed via the Current Protocols’ Webinar Series and registration is free.